St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Cathedral
Sherman Oaks, California
The existing cathedral was in need of an exterior gathering area, new handicapped toilet facilities, refurbishment of its large parking area, as well as extensive renovation of its interior space. To shield the gathering area from the parked cars, a series of new enclosing walls provide privacy but also allow for a focal entry 'gate' to the new gathering area. After the parishioners move through the walls they find themselves inside a generous semi-circular gathering space (emulating the cathedral's apse) with a grotto-like altar - from there, they proceed to the cathedral entrance. The project’s ’narrative’ is sequential and begins in the parking lot: the parking lot’s flat vastness and arid landscaping emphasize a sense of the desert; the angled monochromatic walls demarcate two divergent realms; moving through the walls’ sculpted entry area denotes a sense of 'passage' which culminates at the point of arrival - a circular lush garden with a golden ’grotto’ sheltering a sacred image of Mary with Child.
The project was designed in collaboration with Mark Bielski, AIA.