Originally designed by Richard Neutra in 1961 for the ministry of Robert Schuller, the Christ Cathedral Arboretum is an homage to the California car culture of the era. Schuller and Neutra originally designed the building around a radical idea: the first drive-in/walk-in church.
LPA partnered with the Catholic Diocese of Orange and the Christ Cathedral Corporation to revitalize the aging facility, adapt it to the needs of a changing liturgy, and restore it to its former glory as a gem of mid-century Southern California modernism.
While looking to the past to restore the building’s architectural character, the design team also focused on retrofitting the building with modern systems to improve performance. One of the client’s primary needs was the addition of air conditioning—a difficult modification due to the relatively flat roof, exposed framing, and lack of a ceiling space. Ultimately an underfloor air distribution system was selected, thereby eliminating the need for rooftop equipment and exposed ductwork while using less energy to condition the air through natural displacement.