In the days after the 'renaming' of the Crystal Cathedral as "Christ Cathedral" it might be good to discuss the editorial written by Duncan Stroik (Quo Vadis) and published in the Spring 2012 issue of Sacred Architecture. Here is its central passage:
Said to be the first all-glass structure built for religious purposes, it is associated with the feel-good theology of the 1980s. How to convert a building like this and at the same time disassociate it from its founder and his theology? Crystal Cathedral Ministries was a religion about self-promotion, and, appropriately, its main buildings were designed in disparate modernist styles by three well-known architecture firms: Richard Neutra, Philip Johnson and John Burgee, and Richard Meier. Each building is a personal expression of the architect, so that together they create a campus without much to unify them. Perhaps what may be of more concern to its future owner, the Neutra tower (1968) does not meet earthquake codes and the Crystal Cathedral (1980) and the Welcoming Center (2003) are high maintenance glass and metal buildings. This could be an expensive investment.
Can the Crystal Cathedral be converted to a Catholic Cathedral? We shall see. After all, the much noted cathedrals of Oakland, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are all expressionistic modernist sculptures. The diocese has said that they will not change the exterior of the church and will not compromise the architectural integrity of the 2700-seat interior. Yet, without a radical transformation the building will always come across as a technological mega-church rather than as a sacred place. It needs to be totally gutted and reconceived. And even if the interior can be functionally retrofitted for Catholic liturgy, many believe that its identity will always be that of the Crystal Cathedral.
One of the major criticisms of Catholic architecture during the past fifty years is that it has incorrectly adopted many of the forms of low-church Protestantism: the theater form, a fear of sacred images, asymmetrical layouts, vacuous sanctuaries, minimalist liturgical elements, prominently placed Jacuzzis for baptism, and the banishment of the Blessed Sacrament to the baptistry. The altar area becomes a stage with a focus on entertainment alongside praise bands that perform upbeat music. In response, liturgists have argued that all of these things are simply the outgrowth if not the requirement of Vatican II. Are they finally admitting their agenda by purchasing a ready for TV mega-church complete with a jumbotron and three huge balconies for the “spectators”?