Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Brutalist Cathedral

On a recent visit to Los Angeles, I walked by this building with a colleague — a smart young guy with a cultural background that is Catholic, though he himself qualifies as a "none", I think.

As we strolled by, I asked him what he thought this building might be.

He gave it a good look up and down. "I have no idea," he remarked.

"Give me a general category of building, then," I said.

"Maybe condominiums?" he said.

"Nope, wrong," I replied.

When he spoted this statue, he said, "Oh, maybe a religious building of some sort."

Walking a little farther on, he said, "With the wires, I'm thinking Scientology."

"Wrong again," I said.

Then, a few steps farther along, he spotted a small sign that said: "Our Lady of the Angels Roman Catholic Cathedral." "This is a Catholic church?!?!?" he asked, incredulous.

As our conversation went on, he volunteered that the design probably qualified as brutalist architecture. He pointed out that it fits in well with the other examples of the style nearby, including the bizarre Disney Concert Hall which is two blocks away.

I could only agree with him.

Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles.

With all the exterior warmth of a sewage treatment plant, I was hoping that the cathedral's courtyard and grounds might radiate a greater sense of the sacred. Well, no such luck. The entire area around the cathedral was cordoned off and no access was afforded to the exterior spaces by the time we got there at about 6:30 PM. I assume this is to keep out the countless homeless and strung-out vagrants who may be seen in and around the immediate vicinity of the cathedral.

All are welcome?
We are constantly told that the Church needs to be more welcoming. Well, here at the Olympus Mons of modern American Catholicism, the shoulder could not have been more cold. I got a similar feeling when visiting the wreckovated Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago several years ago.

Every time I see something like this, my mind immediately hearkens back to the list read into the Congressional Record in 1963 under the title Current Communist Goals. Here are goals 22 and 23: 

22. Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was told to "eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms."

23. Control art critics and directors of art museums. "Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art."

I remain astounded that this hideous pile is the mother church of the largest archdiocese in the United States. It replaced the lovely earthquake-damaged St. Vibiana Cathedral which was abandoned initially because it would cost too much to repair and renovate. In the end, they spent $189.7 million building the new monstrosity.

Meanwhile, Saint Vibiana was sold to a developer, repaired for about $7 million. It is now used as a venue for wedding receptions, including same-sex "marriages."
"And he cried out with a strong voice, saying: Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen; and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every unclean spirit, and the hold of every unclean and hateful bird..." [Apocalypse 18:2]


Unknown said...

Another example of a hierarchy bent on destroying the faith.

Master uxi said...

I alternate between thinking the building can be salvaged. My first visit I was seriously disturbed. My second, I do think it's a functional building. Needs an entirely new facade (white or gray marble and/or limestone facade) and significant modification, but I think it could be serviceable. Cover it with a couple hundred statues of angels and archangels. Milan Duomo, was, after all, a lumpy block for hundreds of years.

The inside, of course, would need much more renovation. Reorient the interior 180 degrees. Use the classic retalbo, rail, pieces that Abp. Cantwell gathered for the Frohman Gothic revival basilica pattern 1945 design of COLA where the baptistry currently is. Punch the traditional triple portals in the middle.

Unfortunately, though outside of the trad bubble I prefer, I realize from Yelp and Google reviews that most novus ordo Catholics seem to like it, as hideous as it is.