Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral
Los Angeles, California
Architect: Rafael Moneo International competition by invitation (First Prize)
Location: Los Angeles, California, United States
Light is at the origins of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. On the one hand, the light reflected from the chapels, captured by the large windows orients us along the path of the ambulatories that take us to the nave; this light is not very different from that that we find in Romanesque churches. On the other hand, the light filtered through the alabaster creates a luminous, diffuse and enveloping atmosphere, in which the constructed elements float, ensuring a spatial experience close to that which we have in various Byzantine churches. Finally the glass cross which presides over the apse lets us understand the light as a mystic metaphor of the presence of God manifested in the rays of sunlight that come to us through it.
The new Cathedral sits in the heart of the city, tangent to the Hollywood Freeway. Slightly elevated, the parcel dominates its surroundings, emphasizing the complex's role as an urban landmark and spiritual center. An esplanade for large congregations of up to 6,000 people occupies the center of the site with the built volumes at either end, connected by colonnades that define the edges of the plaza. The Cathedral occupies the higher end, its front facade at a slight angle with the lot's long axis. The bell tower rises at the corner, set apart from the church by a trapezoidal cloister projecting into the esplanade lined by palm trees. At the opposite end of the site are the bishop's residence and facilities for the archdiocese, two volumes that defer to the sculptural mass of the temple.