Our Lady of Angels Cathedral
In this article we showcase the Our Lady of Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles California. This remarkable church is the third largest cathedral in the world, with seating for 3,000. In fact, the main sanctuary is 333 feet long - built one foot longer (intentionally) than St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.
Our Lady of Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles California is the third largest cathedral in the world. In fact, the main sanctuary is 333 feet long - built one foot longer (intentionally) than St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.
The visionary for this building, Cardinal Roger Mahoney, dreamed of a cathedral that would rival any of the wonders in Europe, that would stand for centuries and give comfort to all who entered its doors. He believed the only way to achieve his dream was to find people who could truly work together as a team on this immense project, and so Mahoney carefully chose design architect Jose Rafael Moneo, executive architect Leo A. Daly, structural engineer Nabih Youssef. The commercial construction company for this project was Morley Construction Company.
A project as detailed and large as Our Lady of Angels presented unique challenges to the commercial construction company and architect. For example, the original design of Our Lady of the Angels cathedral was based on a complex coordination system that didn't readily lend itself to building forms and positioning reinforced steel. Because of that, the design had to be converted to true dimensions. The new design incorporated information for the embedded elements, making the job much easier for everyone involved.
Because the cathedral was to be located in California, it was imperative that the structure be resistant to earthquakes. In fact, Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral replaced the smaller former Cathedral of Saint Vibiana, which was severely damaged in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. To achieve this, Youssef designed 149 elastomeric base isolators that would support the 125 million pound building. These isolators were designed allow the cathedral to move 27 inches in either direction, and moderate earthquake forces by 75%. If this system was not in place, the cement walls would likely crack during a quake. The cathedral is built to withstand an earthquake of 8.4, greater than Los Angeles has seen in decades.
Most commercial construction companies will tell you that the majority of jobs are about columns and decks. The cathedral was all about the walls. Its walls are as high in some places as 130 feet, made of lightly sandblasted concrete, and vary in thickness from one to five feet. The commercial construction company used highly fluid concrete, poured into watertight forms in order to achieve uniform color consistency. The corners were so sharp and perfectly consolidated that visitors to the site thought they were precast.
Perfect was the buzzword on this project. With up to 15 ten-man crews working simultaneously, the walls were numbered and every detail had to be signed off on by the structural engineer and architect before they could even be poured. And most perfect - and challenging - of all was the 70-foot high concrete cross behind the alter. It weighs in at almost 2 million pounds and is supported only by the arms, which is actually a wall tied into the 17 foot deep main concrete girders.
The cathedral boasts 25,000-pound bronze doors, a steeply pitched entrance hall, and seating capacity for 3,000. Also on the site are an educational center, a 156 foot tall bell tower, a 2 ½ acre outdoor plaza, and the burial place for actor Gregory Peck. Cardinal Mahoney resides on the grounds of the cathedral he dreamed of, planned for, and oversaw for the three years it took to complete at a total cost of $200 million