Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A sacred space for the 21st century is upon us: Its name is the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

Drawing upon the tradition of light as a
sacred phenomenon.

Imagine a 21st century sacred space built with modest materials ~ primarily wood, glass and concrete ~ that draws on the tradition of light as a sacred phenomenon, and during daytime hours is lit entirely by natural daylight. There is such a sacred space.

The Cathedral of Christ the Light is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, Calif. It is the seat of the Bishop of Oakland and it is also a pivotal point of worship for Catholics throughout the city of Oakland as well as Alameda County.

The cathedral's name is a departure from the Catholic tradition of naming cathedrals after Mary the Mother of God or a patron saint.

Cathedral of Christ the Light /
Reflections of a city and of its cathedral.
Built in 2008 and bordering the city's Lake Merritt, the Cathedral of Christ the Light replaced the Cathedral of Saint Francis de Sales, which was irreparably damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 that shook the Bay Area.

"It is a spiritual font that inspires and unites our richly diverse diocese in its mission to sanctify, educate and serve," says Reverend Raymond Sacca, rector of The Cathedral of Christ the Light, on its website http://www.ctlcathedral.org/. "Whenever I enter the cathedral, I find myself drawn beyond the worries and distractions of the day into the majestic, yet serene, presence of Christ whose compassion and peace lift up my spirit."

An amazing structure with a wooden /
glass skin that creates an interior
full of light.
It is inviting to experience Mass in this sacred, light-infused Modernist space. It is also a welcoming space for listening to a concert of uplifting music or sitting quietly for a few minutes in a pew simply to enjoy and admire the sanctuary.

The architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP designed the sacred space that is The Cathedral of Christ the Light, calling it "an amazing structure with a wooden/glass skin that creates an interior full of light." Ground was broken on May 21, 2005 and was consecrated and dedicated on September 25, 2008. It was built on a site of 2.5 acres and the cathedral structure itself consumes 20,996 square meters. The exterior of the sanctuary is 118-feet high and has seating for 1,350 people.

The main Cathedral superstructure, which is located at the busy Oakland intersection of Grand Avenue and Harrison Street, across from Lake Merritt, is unlike any I have ever seen. I've driven by the cathedral hundreds of times and its beauty never ceases to amaze me. 

According to the architect, the superstructure consists of a "hybrid structural system of reinforced concrete, pre-fabricated glued laminated wood timber members, high-strength structural steel rods paired with glued laminated wood compression struts, and a steel friction-pendulum seismic base isolation system. The superstructure is supported atop an eighteen-foot-high mausoleum substructure of reinforced concrete extending to a reinforced concrete mat foundation."

21st century thinking / The lightest ecological
 footprint was always a core design objective. 

"As its name suggests, the Cathedral draws on the tradition of light as a sacred phenomenon," says the architectural website Archdaily.com ~ http://www.archdaily.com. "Through its poetic introduction, indirect daylight ennobles modest materials ~ primarily wood, glass, and concrete. With the exception of evening activities, the Cathedral is lit entirely by daylight to create an extraordinary level of luminosity."

What is impressive to the casual observer is learning that the lightest ecological footprint was always a core design objective. Also, it is encouraging to find out that through a highly innovative use of renewable materials, the building minimizes the use of energy and natural resources.

Indeed, the Cathedral of Christ the Light is a sacred space with a 21st century sensibility.

To read more about The Cathedral of Christ the Light, please see:

To view a colorful pictorial of The Cathedral of Christ the Light, please see:

To read an article from Architectural Record about the cathedral, please see:

All photographs by Michael Dickens, copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Welcoming the summer solstice to our garden

A summer's sun is worth the having. ~ French Proverb.

As we bid adieu to spring, the morning sun glistens
 upon the petals of our newest Queen Elizabeth rose.

It's time to say goodbye to spring and, soon, it will be time to welcome summer ~ sunshine and all.

Tomorrow, the sun will arrive at its northernmost point in the sky. With it, we herald a season change on Earth as summer officially begins in the Northern Hemisphere. As for our neighbors in the Southern Hemisphere, it's time for winter. However, your time for summer will come again, soon.

As the beauty of the morning sun glistens over our backyard garden, it's a delight ~ more than ever ~ to photograph our summer roses.

Photograph by Michael Dickens, copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Relishing a wide world of sport

The Art of Sport / London 2012 Olympic Games
This poster by British artist Rachel Whiteread
will be on display at the Tate Britain
 as part of the London 2012 festival.

It's a great time to be a sports fan.

Let's see: Between the European Championships in football, the French Open in tennis, the Stanley Cup in ice hockey and the NBA Finals in American professional basketball, there's something for every sports fan during this second week in June. Add to the mix, Major League Baseball with its inter-league play and pennant races starting to formulate, and there's just not enough hours in the day to watch everything.

* Thanks to the worldwide interest in the World Cup, America's interest in the European Championships of football has grown, too. ESPN is broadcasting all of the matches in this year's tournament which continues through July 1. It will be interesting to see if Spain can live up to its pre-tournament billing as the favorite to win the Euro 2012 championship  ~ and, to see the merger of Barcelona and Real Madrid players, despite their differences at the club level during La Liga, can provide a spark of inventiveness and create enough chances for La Furia Roja to bring home the trophy.

* History was made in Monday's French Open final as Rafa Nadal, the undisputed "King of Clay" won a record seventh Roland Garros singles title by defeating the world's No. 1 player, Novak Djokovic, in four grueling sets. En route to Lucky No. 7, Nadal surpassed the record of six that was first set by the legendary Bjorn Borg a generation ago. He began his incredible string of fortune by winning his first French Open title in 2005 and, except for losing in the 2009 final, he's won it every year since while compiling a remarkable record of 52-1 on the red clay at Roland Garros.

* On Monday night in Los Angeles, the Kings became king of ice hockey by skating to a 6-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils to win the NHL Stanley Cup for the first time in the franchise's 45-year history. It's always a thrill to see the players of the winning team kissing Lord Stanley's Cup and hoisting it above their heads as they skate around the rink in jubilation. It's an experience every hockey player wants to experience.

* Tonight, the NBA season reaches its tipping point as "The Finals" between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat begin. The best-of-seven series features two of pro basketball's biggest stars in Kevin Durant and LeBron James, neither whom have won a championship.

* With the weather heating up across America, expect the Major League Baseball pennant races to heat up, too. And, of course, there's the classic rivalries of baseball ~ Giants- Dodgers and Yankees-Red Sox come to mind ~ that make the Summer Game so enjoyable.

Lest we forget: The United States Open golf championship will be contested this week in San Francisco, and the Wimbledon Championships start in less than two weeks. Next month, it will be time for the London 2012 Olympics to romance us.

Indeed, it's a time for relishing a wide world of sport.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

You've Got Starbucks!

A cafe mocha during my lunch at Le Pain Quotidien in Brussels.

Recently, while channel surfing, I caught a few minutes of the movie "You've Got Mail", the 1998 American romantic comedy film directed by Nora Ephron that stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. It's based on the play "Parfumerie" by Miklós László and tells the story of two e-mailing lovers completely unaware that their sweetheart is, indeed, a person with whom they share a degree of animosity.  The adaptation of "You've Got Mail" traces its lineage back to the 1940 film "The Shop Around the Corner" by Ernst Lubitsch.  There's even a bit of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" found in the relationship between the characters portrayed by Hanks and Ryan.

While watching "You've Got Mail", I couldn't help but delight in the scene that illustrated America's growing infatuation for Starbucks coffee in the late 1990s, as voiced over by Hanks' character, Joe Fox, whose family owned a chain of mega-bookstores similar to Barnes & Noble:

The original Starbucks, located
at Pike Place Market in Seattle,
as seen in my 2009 photo.
"The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee.  Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc.  So people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino."

Perhaps, like Fox Books in the movie, Starbucks has tried hard ~ maybe too hard ~ to promote a sense of self. What they seemingly have created is a pseudo sense of friendliness and hip atmosphere in their stores and cafés, both in America and globally, in countries which they have penetrated the coffee marketplace. Sometimes, it's truly embraced, like I saw last month in Amsterdam on the bustling Leidsestraat near our hotel. There, the number of customers hanging out inside this colorful and particularly busy café, enjoying their cappuccinos in mugs while checking e-mail on their iPhones, far outnumbered those like me, who got their mocha in a to-go cup. To each his own, but I was in a walking mood, with things to see and places to go ~ and, it was lovely spring morning.

Enjoying a cappuccino with my
Saturday morning breakfast at 
Bagels & Beans in Amsterdam.
Thank goodness, during my recent travels in Europe, I discovered a world of coffee beyond Starbucks.  I saw this world in both Brussels and Paris ~ even in Amsterdam, too ~ and, over the course of 12 days, I tasted some very wonderful cappuccinos and mochas as they were meant to be enjoyed: in true café settings, and crafted by baristas, who took their time and turned coffee-making into an art form.  And, it was a delight to observe people unhurried, taking their time sipping and savoring their coffee. It added up to a most delicious and enjoyable experience.

All photographs by Michael Dickens. Copyright 2009, 2012. All rights reserved.