Richard Meier

The Crystal Cathedral redesign: Why tasteful updates add up to architectural disappointment

The Crystal Cathedral redesign: Why tasteful updates add up to architectural disappointment

When the Rev. Robert H. Schuller decided in the mid-1970s that his congregation was outgrowing the drive-in, low-slung Garden Grove church that Richard Neutra had designed for him 15 years earlier within earshot of Interstate 5, and that he needed a purpose-built cathedral to accommodate his increasingly popular “Hour of Power” televised sermons, he flew to New York to visit the architecture firm run by Philip Johnson and John Burgee.

On the face of it, Schuller and Johnson were a very strange match, the self-made Orange County televangelist and the smoothly moneyed New York architect who was also an atheist and gay. But at heart they were both...

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