Address
2121 Harrison St, Oakland, CA 94612
Year Constructed
2008
Structural Engineering Firm(s)
Structural Engineer(s)
  • Mark Sarkisian
Architect(s)
Craig W. Hartman (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill), Tom Milholland (Kendall/Heaton Associates)
Main Contractor
Webcor Builders, Western Wood Structures
Media
Cathedral of Christ the Light - Interior View
Cathedral of Christ the Light - Interior View
Source: Robyn Purchia
Cathedral of Christ the Light - Exterior View
Cathedral of Christ the Light - Exterior View
Cathedral under Constuction - Aerial View
Cathedral under Constuction - Aerial View
Source: SOM
Cathedral under Construction - North View
Cathedral under Construction - North View
Source: SOM
Cathedral under Construction - South View
Cathedral under Construction - South View
Source: SOM
Glulam Timber
Glulam Timber
Source: SOM
Base Isolator
Base Isolator
Source: SOM
Structure Description

The Cathedral of Christ the Light replaced the historic St. Francis de Sales Cathedral damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Following an international design competition to replace the damaged Oakland cathedral, construction on the new cathedral complex commenced in 2005. The Cathedral of Christ the Light celebrated its opening dedication on September 25th, 2008.

The main Cathedral gravity and lateral structural system consists of a hybrid glued laminated heavy timber superstructure interconnected with tensioned steel rods and timber compression struts supported on a base of reinforced concrete reliquary walls and sanctuary floor substructure. The main Cathedral oculus roof rises 120 feet above the sanctuary floor. Located 4.7km from the Hayward Fault adjacent to Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland, the superstructure rests on a base seismic isolation system consisting of 36 steel double concave friction pendulum isolation bearings. The main Cathedral composes a 1,350-seat sanctuary with side chapels, a baptistery, and dependencies. It is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland in Oakland, California, and honors its religious and civic obligations to the parish community, ministries, Catholic Diocese and the city.

Significance to Structural Engineering History in Northern California

In the tradition of Northern California Bay Area architecture, the Cathedral incorporates a highly innovative use of modest materials including glued laminated timber, exposed reinforced concrete, high strength steel, aluminum and glass to provide lightness and luminosity into a symbolic form. The geometry of the Cathedral is derived from Vesica Pisces motif and concepts using intersecting circles and spheres to create an efficient structural form. Spherically shaped in plan and section, inner curved and tapered glued laminated wood timber rib members, and outer exterior sloping straight glued laminated rib members, form the framework of the sanctuary superstructure. Douglas Fir was selected as the most appropriate wood species because of its production availability on the West Coast, economic considerations, fire-resistance, strength, stability, consistency and natural architectural appearance. High-strength steel rods and tapering, turned glued-laminated wood struts interconnect the inner and outer ribs forming a hybrid steel-timber braced frame structure providing stability under both vertical and horizontal loading.

Awards
  • ACI NorCal Chapter Regional Architecture Award for Use of Concrete (2007)
  • Treehugger.com Ten of the World's Most Beautiful Green Buildings (2008)
  • McGraw-Hill Construction Best of the Best Award (2008)
  • SEAONC Award of Excellence Landmark Structures (2009)
  • SEAOC Award of Excellence Landmark Structures (2009)
  • SEAOI Jurors' Favorite Honor Award (2009)
  • NCSEA Excellence in Structural Engineering Award (2009)
  • IStructE Award for Community or Residential Structures (2009)
  • ASCE SF Section Outstanding Architectural Engineering Project of the Year (2009)
  • Wood Works California Wood Design Award: Landmark Category (2009)
  • AIA National Honor Award for Architecture (2009)
  • AIA California Council East Bay Honor Award (2009)
  • AIA SF Charter Excellence in Architecture: Honor Award, (2009))