The Diocese of Orange announced Wednesday the new design plans for Christ Cathedral, saying they are intended to transform the former Crystal Cathedral into a space that is “liturgically and intrinsically Catholic.” “Through this innovative design process an insightful plan has emerged that will establish Christ Cathedral as a place for involvement in the sacraments, a place to hear the Word of God proclaimed and a place for personal prayer and devotion,” Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange said Sept. 24. “It will be a holy place, where God dwells among us.” The Diocese of Orange purchased the Crystal Cathedral in February of 2012 from the Protestant community which founded it. The building and its campus was sold after the community filed for bankruptcy in October 2010 when some of its creditors sued for payment. T he church’s longtime minister, Robert Schuller, had approved the original designs for the church building and gave it the name Crystal Cathedral in the late 1970s. The building is 120 feet tall, 141 feet long and 207 feet wide, covering an area of 78,397 square feet. It is made entirely of glass and steel. The cathedral will have a seating capacity of over 2,000. The new design aims to support the centrality of the Eucharist, to provide a “solemn and prayerful experience,” and to meet the needs of a 10,000-member parish, the diocese said in a statement. The altar’s central placement was designed taking into account Catholic liturgy, the massive space, and the presence of the Hazel Wright Organ, the fourth largest church organ in the world. The altar’s design is part of an “antiphonal” layout, with the altar placed at the building’s center. One altar design photo shows a large crucifix suspended from the ceiling above the altar. Monsignor Christopher Smith, Christ Cathedral’s rector, noted the ancient Christian image of the “porta coeli,” Latin for the “gateway to heaven.” “A cathedral, such as the Christ Cathedral when completed, lifts the mind, heart and soul of believers — and perhaps even others — to the love of God and the hope that God has promised,” he said. He said the design plan aims to build “a deeper unity of purpose and mission among Catholics within our local Church” in addition to “a renewed commitment to permeating the world with the love of Christ.” The first phase of the project will concern the cathedral itself, its courtyard, and a reflection garden that will house the campus’ existing statuary and the bronze replicas of the 1,800 “Walk of Faith” stones currently on the campus. The project’s second phase includes the expansion of the cathedral’s lower level, the expansion of the cathedral’s cemetery, and the redesign of the rest of the campus grounds. The first phase is being undertaken with $29 million from the $100 million capital campaign. More funding is being raised to complete the project. The structure’s fa√ßade of more than 10,000 panes of mirrored glass posed challenges involving heat transfer, excess light, and acoustics. In response, the design team has designed “petals” to cover each piece of glass. The petals will open to control light and heat transfer as well as acoustics. Bishop Vann thanked the diocese architectural and renovations committee and the architectural firms that worked on the plans. He said the design plan respects Schuller’s “faithful witness and architectural legacy” while creating “a contemplative and prayerful space that embodies the solemnity and reverence of the Catholic tradition.” The diocese retained the architectural firm Johnson Fain to focus on the cathedral itself, while Rios Clementi Hale Studios was retained to focus on the cathedral’s 34-acre surrounding campus, which will be used as a center for evangelization, arts and culture, interreligious dialogue and outreach to the poor. When it was announced one year ago that Johnson Fain had been selected to renovate the cathedral, Scott Johnson, the firm's design partner, explained to CNA that his strategy would be “essentially to conserve and restore the exterior” of the cathedral and that “the new architecture will really be in the refashioning of the operational aspects and the interior elements of the shell.” The cathedral will reopen after renovations and a formal dedication scheduled for 2017.