A couple of weeks ago the Forest Products Society Pacific Southwest Section toured the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland. This stunning building, completed in 2008, is the headquarters for the Diocese of Oakland. It replaced the Cathedral of St Francis de Sales that was damaged beyond repair in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
The Cathedral of Christ the Light
The $180m Cathedral is on a 2.5 acre site on the shore of Lake Merritt and was designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM). It is a showcase for the use of wood in innovative construction and also uses glass and concrete. It has been designed to last for over 300 hundred years and includes friction base pendulum isolators to minimize earthquake damage.
It was designed to have a low ecological impact both in the choice of construction materials but also in ongoing energy use. The main interior structure is of, Oregon sourced, Douglas fir glued laminated (glulam) beams which serve as ribs and louvers. This system provides structural elasticity as well as helping to regulate the building temperature. Glulam is a way to make large beams using smaller pieces of lumber. The lumber pieces are laminated on top of each other and finger joints are used to connect end to end. It is possible to manufacture extremely large and/or curved members using this method which allows great flexibility in structural design. It also allows the effective use of smaller logs and maximizes the efficient use of forest resources.
The wooden structure also adds great beauty to the interior of the building and Douglas fir is also used in the mausoleum to great effect. The pews are made using red oak and the impressive 5,000 pipe organ also uses wood.
The building has won many awards for the outstanding design including the 2009 Forest Products Society
Wood Engineering Innovation Award. All of the awards are listed on the SOM website
The Cathedral is open to the public daily and tours are also offered. If you have not yet seen this building I recommend it - parking is available in a garage on the site. The Cathedral website
has some excellent time lapse videos of the building during construction.
The FPS Pacific Southwest Section’s next tour will be to Standard Structures in Santa Rosa during October. This facility makes glulam and other products. Details will be posted on our website
when the details are finalized.