Tag Archives: old vs. new

And something new…

Catholicism isn’t really my cup of tea… all this business about sinning! But if there were ever something that might make me want to convert, it would undoubtedly be the experience of walking into this church. It’s like no church I’ve ever seen.

The building was designed by architect Craig Hartman of the San Francisco firm of Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill. You might recognize his work from another famous Bay Area structure… the international terminal of SFO. Having just been there days ago, there are definite stylistic similarities, in use of materials (especially metal and glass) and in the manipulation of space and light.

What’s different is the feeling you have when you enter the Cathedral of Christ the Light. And you do feel something.

It is considered to be one of the most “riveting examples of recent architecture” in the Bay Area, and I think I can speak for many when I say, we are happy to claim it as our own in good ol’ Oaktown.




Though the architecture is truly modern, it has “strong underpinnings in traditional religious architecture, such as the concentric plans of Renaissance chapels, or the manipulation of light in Baroque churches.” This information, and much more about its design, can be found here, on Architectural Record’s website.


There is a small memorial garden dedicated to the victims of clergy sexual abuse.


And below is a shot in the crypt/mausoleum in the the lower level of the building, which is quite stunning in itself, and incorporates the original 1870 stained glass windows taken from the previous church (Cathedral of Saint Francis de Sales) which was damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. We’ll be talking more about that tomorrow…


Something old…

So I’m all out of whack now… after several days of enjoying what we Americans have just recently come to know as “slow food” (the Europeans have been doing it for centuries folks), today I found myself scarfing a piece of pizza while sitting alone in my car on a very short lunch break.  Granted, it was Arizmendi pizza, but still… so uncivilized.

I’ve been thinking about how sometimes revisiting the way things were done in the past can guide us in developing models of sustainability for the future.  Amsterdam is a perfect example… here you have a city of three-quarters of a million people and the primary form of transportation is the bicycle.  It’s fantastic.  No auto noise, no auto exhaust, no vast stretches of ugly concrete designed for nothing other than spaces to put all the cars.  There’s an extensive mass transit system too.

We now have this concept that city planners talk about quite a bit… the “20-minute neighborhood,” where everything we need to go about our daily lives in both work and play are easily walkable within 20 minutes.  That’s how they did it in the old days. It may sound like a crazy model for a country that came of age during its love affair with the automobile, but hey, we’re making headway.  We are getting smarter.

So I’m gonna change topics a bit here, though my visit to Europe did get me thinking of the old versus the new. And we have a nice example of this near our lovely Lake Merritt, which I’ve been wanting to focus on anyway (more on this later).

Now I’m not a particularly religious person, but I do love visiting churches for the amazing art and architecture these grand buildings typically display.  We happen to have two catholic churches perched on opposite ends of the lake.  Today we will visit the old one…

She is called Our Lady of the Lourdes, and is quite near to what is historically considered to have been the site of the first catholic mass ever held within the county of Alameda (1772). Though the church building itself was not erected until the mid-20th century, it has an old world European feel, built in the Romanesque style out of Italian marble, complete with 110 foot bell tower.






My pictures don’t quite do this church justice… it’s got wonderful sculptural work on the exterior and rows of stunning stained glass windows from the interior.  Not to mention it’s lovely location.

Tomorrow we visit the new!