Christ Cathedral
Garden Grove, Calif.
Best Project

Owner: Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange – Christ Cathedral
Lead Design Firm: Johnson Fain
General Contractor: Snyder Langston
Civil Engineer: TAIT & Associates
Structural Engineer: Nabih Youssef & Associates
MEP Engineer: Syska Hennessy Group
Subcontractors: Idibri; Rios Clementi Hale Studios; Francis Krahe & Associates

The project team was tasked with creating a new cathedral that honored the existing church formerly known as the Crystal Cathedral with its iconic all-glass diamond plan. One of the design’s most complex aspects is the frame’s interior, the shell of which is the nexus of both symbolic and technical issues. The new stone floor and lower walls recall the earth, while the glass vault recalls the heavens. 

The design delivered a complex quatrefoils system of triangular metal sails. By arranging open and closed “petals” on the inside surface of the space frames with respect to their solar orientation, natural light can be modulated throughout the day. The configuration also controls glare and allows rich translucent patterns to define the interior shell both night and day.

The extensive interior work required a carefully sequenced erection of an intricate 86,500-sq-ft scaffolding system. Composed of 11 million elements and built to a height of 96 ft, the scaffold was used to clean and paint the nine-story space frame structure supporting the cathedral’s glass panes. Crews integrated new fire protection and lighting systems along with the 11,500 quatrefoils. The scaffold also was used to hoist frames, support ladders, trusses, planks and plywood. Once work was complete, the scaffolding system was removed in a similarly synchronized process. 

Throughout the renovation, the project team worked diligently with the client and architect to source craftspeople who understood the extraordinary quality expectations and complexity of their respective tasks as well as the need to maintain strict budget limits. 

Key elements included custom air grilles for the balcony area, massive stonework at the bishop chair and a 9,000-lb altar, with stone floor tiles precision-manufactured to prevent partial cuts at the walls. The team honed its expertise in equipment installation by developing a technique to lift the 7-ton steel and aluminum baldachin into place using chain falls from the space frame above it.

Back to ENR California's 2020 Regional Best Project Shine