Architectural Icon and Sacred Building Enter the 21st Century

LPA Inc. partners to restore Neutra's vision of the Arboretum, on the former Crystal Cathedral's campus, while integrating modern technologies.

(Garden Grove, Calif.) July 31, 2013 — The newly rehabilitated Arboretum building on the Christ Cathedral Campus, a partnership between California-based LPA Inc., the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, Cannon Building and volunteers, is formally open to church members for weekly Mass.

LPA has been working with the Diocese of Orange, to bring the Arboretum into the 21st century without disturbing the architectural significance of its rich history. The Diocese acquired the Arboretum in February 2012. It was the original worship area for the Crystal Cathedral Ministries, and is now serving as the temporary home for the relocated St. Callistus parish.

Originally designed to be cutting-edge in 1961, the 22,000-square-foot building needed aesthetic and technological updates. The Arboretum is part of the 34-acre campus of the future Christ Cathedral, located in the heart of Orange County in Garden Grove, Calif. Richard Neutra, one of Southern California’s most celebrated architects was hired by Rev. Robert Schuller for the project.

Rev. Schuller purchased the land after preaching the gospel for six years from the Orange Drive-In Theater while churchgoers listened in their cars. Schuller is a great patron of architecture and is the only non-architect to ever serve on the American Institute of Architect’s board of directors. He later became known for his Hour of Power television program.

Partnering with the Diocese of Orange and the Christ Catholic Cathedral Corporation, the entity charged with the management of the site, LPA applied sustainable design decisions appropriately to achieve a balance between the needs of the Church and the preservationist’s desire for flawless preservation.

“The Catholic church has been a great steward of art and architecture, and we are honored to continue to play this role in the 21st century,” says Robert Neal, a managing partner with Hager Pacific Properties and Chair of the Architectural and Renovations Committee for the Cathedral campus.

“We realized that this project wasn’t a preservation, where you’re trying to lock it in time. It’s not a restoration, where you rebuild what was originally there. It’s a rehabilitation to make the building new,” says LPA Principal Jim Wirick. “Aesthetically, we want to look back. Technologically, we need to look forward. It’s got a new program, a new client, and has a new liturgy. So we’re taking a very strong aesthetic and applying an old program, meshing those two together to become a Catholic church.”

LPA’s integrated design approach involves renovating the space in a way that allows Neutra’s original design intent to be brought back to life—including his own palette of colors that were hand-mixed onsite—while also retrofitting the building with modern technology.

One of the Arboretum’s biggest challenges and priorities involved installation of the building’s first-ever air-conditioning system. The building’s east and west sides are made completely of glass; solar heat gain made the interior space so warm and uncomfortable that occupants were known to wear sunglasses indoors. After much debate, it was agreed that an underfloor air distribution system would be installed to avoid roof-mounted equipment or ventilation systems which would mar the beautiful profile of the building. Instead, floor-level diffusers blend in with new carpet tile, providing a cool and comfortable worship space.

The building’s 620 panes of glass were replaced due to tenuous connections and lack of energy efficiency. The single-pane glass, spanning from floor to ceiling and wall to wall, was replaced with dual-pane efficient glass that keeps the original design intent of transparency with increased solar protection in the same modular aesthetic as the original design.

Through structural reinforcement, the Arboretum was also voluntarily retrofitted to meet current seismic standards. “We hope these elective seismic updates will allow the building to be in service for 75 to 100 more years,” notes Fred Helms, Chief Operating Officer of the Campus. “The lifespan of this building could be a millennium, so any upgrades need to last, and need to make it as safe as possible.”

In addition, modernizations were made to ensure compliance with California’s Green Building Standards Code and the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), all while retaining the celebrated aesthetics. For example, to bring stair railings to code, LPA added glass behind the existing railings so they could remain in place and still meet ADA requirements.

“Once the project is completed, this will be one of the most important Catholic properties in California, if not the world,” says Father Christopher Smith, Episcopal Rector and Vicar of the future Christ Cathedral. “With 1.3 million Catholics in Orange County, and 4.3 million Catholics in Los Angeles, we see this campus as a great center for the Church in Southern California and these buildings will contribute to mightily … and not just here, but across the world.”

For more information, please contact Ryan Lilyengren, Director of Communications for the Diocese of Orange, at rlilyengren(at)rcbo(dot)org or 714-282-3075.

About Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, created in 1976 by Pope Paul VI, currently has 58 parishes and three Catholic cultural centers serving more than 1.2 million Catholics. The Diocese of Orange is now the 10th largest diocese in the United States. Since its founding, the Diocese of Orange has filled a variety of social, economic, and spiritual needs throughout Orange County, the United States and the world. The Most Reverend Kevin Vann, Bishop of Orange, leads this diverse community of faith in following the Gospel’s call to live their lives in service to others.

About LPA Inc.

Founded in 1965, LPA has nearly 200 employees with offices in Irvine, Roseville, and San Diego, Calif. The firm provides services in architecture, sustainability, planning, interior design, landscape architecture, engineering, and graphics. There is no “Sustainability Director” at LPA. Instead, more than 80% of the professionals are LEED accredited, including the Human Resources Director, CFO, and several other support staff. With extensive experience in public and private architecture, LPA designs a diversity of facilities that span from K-12 school, colleges and universities, to corporate and civic establishments. More than 500 major design awards attest to LPA’s commitment to design excellence. For more information, visit

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