In telling about the redesign of Robert Schuller's Crystal Cathedral, the Orange County Register sounds like it's imitating the song My Favorite Things:
GARDEN GROVE – Ceiling lights that mimic stars.
Dozens of crape myrtle trees.
A rebuilt organ.
Those are some of the elements included in the restoration of Christ Cathedral, according to plans announced Wednesday by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange and its architects.
Kinda singsong, dontcha think? But stay with it; the story turns out as light 'n' bright as the glass building itself. Especially compared with the heavier, wordier account in the Los Angeles Times.
The Register briskly sets out the more eye-catching changes in the already stunning, 78,000-square-foot structure. Those include petal-like shades for some of the glass panels; a lawn for outdoor Masses of up to 8,000; outside lights that will make the cathedral glow at night; and painting the walnut organ white, to keep from distraction attention from the altar.
Some sparkly words are sprinkled through the story as well. They include calling the shade panels "petals"; the cathedral as a "Box of Stars"; and the whole 35-acre campus as a "sacred heat map." Nice.
The latter phrase, by a principal architect, summarizes the planned experience of approaching the church:
Visitors walking from the campus’ parking area will pass through an enclosure of crape myrtle trees as they enter the plaza. Plans call for 272 of the trees, which are meant to symbolize the beginning, in earnest, of a gradual increase in holiness. The goal is for that feeling to reach a crescendo at the altar at the center of Christ Cathedral.
Many features not in the story, you can look up in a beautifully rendered graphic that gives an overview of the campus, then zooms in on key details -- and spells out what will be changed. The graphic is produced in a one-page .pdf form that you can download.
As likeable as this article is, it lacks a few things I would have added. One is an evaluation from someone not connected with the project. Such views aren't hard to find; one comes from a Patheos blog called Standing On My Head. The writer, Father Dwight Longenecker, gave a mixed review to the cathedral plans:
What’s bad? It breaks the great tradition rather than developing the great tradition. It’s iconic and iconoclastic at the same time. This is a problem because our language of worship is built up from the images, signs and symbols–including architectural styles–from the past. The danger is that Catholics will go into a building like this and not find any connecting points. Like most modern, unique buildings it exudes a certain hubris. Its a bit “hey! look at me!”
Of course, in another era he might have said the same of the cathedrals at Chartres and Cologne. Those are pretty showy, too. But oh, well, that's his opinion. I'm sure the Register could have found views like his.
And wouldn't it have been interesting to read reactions from someone who was connected to original Crystal Cathedral? That was one good thing about the Los Angeles Times story -- a decent quote from Schuller's grandson Pastor Bobby Schuller:
"I think they've done a really good job preserving the intent of the original architect … while still being able to adapt it to the worship needs of an altar-centered liturgy," he said.
He noted that his grandfather advocated for the Roman Catholic diocese to prevail in its purchase of the cathedral.
"We knew they had a real love and a high value for grand architecture," the younger Schuller said. "For my grandfather that was hugely important. For him architecture was an aesthetic way to worship God, a way to use beauty and art to bring glory to the name of God."
I also didn't see where the diocese plans to get the $113 million. Offerings? Bond issue? Big donors? Golf tournaments? Some combination?
Finally, what about the end of the article -- "The sound will be improved"? Pretty choppy, maybe because an editor chopped it. How will it be improved? Any brand names, like Bose or Boston Acoustics?
The story feels unfinished; but then, so is the cathedral remodeling itself -- Phase I isn't due to open until 2017. Maybe because the Register has done other stories on the project for more than a year. Those pieces, like this one, are helpfully linked at the end of the current update.