Friday, October 19, 2012

Reminder: Thinking about the City of God: Urban Planning and Catholic Social Doctrine

I'll be speaking tonight at SunUp Brewing in Phoenix AZ for Catholic Phoenix, topic: "Thinking about the City of God: Urban Planning and Catholic Social Teaching"

SunUp Brewing
322 East Camelback Road
Phoenix AZ 85012

5:30 pm to 6:30 pm

Hope to see you there!

Link to Catholic Phoenix

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


I am happy to see that Francesco Colafemmina's blog Fides et Forma  has picked up the Our Savior Catholic Church project for the Italian audience.  Fides et Forma has been leading the discussion on the critiques of modernism and the recovery of meaning and authentic beauty among Catholic architects, artists, liturgists and theologians in Italy.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A new Renaissance in Catholic Architecture and Sacred Art

The newly completed (if not quite fully furnished) Our Savior Catholic Church a the University of Southern California is a truly stunning building.  The church and the adjacent Caruso Catholic Center, which houses the student center, a conference facility/ banqueting room, and the administration offices, sits tightly but elegantly on the small site at the corner of Hoover and 32nd Street, just north of the campus.  From each direction for both pedestrians and drivers, the project has a strong and deliberate sense of iconic presence: one immediately and intuitively knows this is a church building, and more importantly one senses this is an important building.

The muscular massing of the Romanesque chapel -- chosen to harmonize with the historical architectural style of the USC campus -- is manifest by the strong and rhythmic buttresses and monumental stained glass windows, the protruding octagonal apse which addresses the main intersection, and the towering campanile.

The choice of split face travertine, retrieved from a 1500 year old stone quarry in Italy that once furnished stone for the facade of St Peters at the Vatican, framed by elegant precast details, and articulated by the Spanish tile roof and copper rain gutters, collector boxes and downspouts, enhance the muscular corporeality befitting of a church dedicated to Our Savior.

The broad east faced, which fronts the courtyard, is a dignified and well proportioned composition which sets the main entrance doors in an elegant Romanesque (which will be graced by a stone tympanum of Christ in glory flanked by two angels, designed and executed by Jason Arkles of Florence Italy), with the large rose window above.

The compact site creates a very urban and civic sense to the project, inviting the passersby onto the property and welcoming them into the church. 

The more refined Caruso Catholic Center, with the finely proportioned classical facade and the elegant Italianate arcade, sits nobly but deferentially and harmoniously with the church to form the open plaza.

This arcade creates an important link both from the student center to the church, as well as to Hoover Street, which heightens the sense of welcome and civic participation of the Catholic community to the university community at large. 

The cornerstone, designed by Liturgical Environs PC, is cut from Italian travertine. The inscription speaks to the dedication of the Church of Our Savior in the year 2012, and tells the history that this stone was blessed by Pope Benedict XVI on 21 April in the Year of Our Lord 2010.

 The interior of the church is a simple open aula, with a stone floor, a raised sanctuary platform backed by an open Classical reredos which frames the Blessed Sacrament chapel in the apse, fine wood paneling which integrates both sacred art (the Stations of the Cross in the pedimented frames as the bases for the Our Lady and St Joseph shrines) as well as hides the energy efficient displacement ventilation systems, and the hammer beam and wood plank ceiling above. 

The altar, made of marble and onyx, is framed by the classical reredos, which creates an open screen to the Blessed Sacrament chapel in the apse. Above the altar is the large bronze crucifix by the well known local sculptor, Christopher Slatoff.  The Stations of the Cross are being prepared by the renown Peter Adams, which will be framed in the architectural surrounds cased in the wood paneling around the nave. 

The church is themed to speak to the university community with the timeless message of Christ the Teacher as manifested particularly through the Sermon on the Mount.  The eight monumental stained glass windows which enliven the nave each will highlight one of the eight Beatitudes: the upper central panel will show the beatitude as expressed in the life of Christ or the New Testament, with a parallel Old Testament theme below which prefigures the beatitude.  The architectural columns framing the central theme will each incorporate grisaille statuary figures if male and female saints which in some way express the Christian virtues of the respective beatitude.  The rondellos above the scene show the shields of the various colleges at the University, surrounding the central medallion of a Christogram expressing Christ as the "hub" and focus of education and formation.

The windows are being executed by the Judson Studios of Pasadena CA, a fitting legacy to the heritage of David Judson's great-great-grandfather who was the first dean of the College of Fine Arts at USC, and whose studio occupies that original college building. 

 The ceiling is a hammerbeam system of heavy wood trusses and planks, which complement the lower wood paneling to create an harmonious and well ordered room for the celebration of the sacrament. 

The apse will house the Blessed Sacrament in this handsome niche, creating a small chapel of devotion and contemplation.  Looking down from the clerestory will be nine of the Doctors of the Church, as a fitting reminder of the ways in which we are called in Christ to raise our hearts and minds in the pursuit of education to the service of the Church and the people of God.

The church will be dedicated on 9 December 2012.

Client:  Our Savior Catholic Parish, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Pastor: Reverend Lawrence Seyer
Director of Development: Mrs. Claire Faulkner
Design Architect: Elkus Manfredi, Boston MA
Architect of Record: Studio 111, Perkowitz+Ruth, Long Beach CA
Liturgical Designer: Steven J Schloeder, PhD AIA, Liturgical Environs PC, Phoenix AZ
Construction Manager: Matt Construction, Los Angeles, CA