In 1996 the Spanish architect, the world renowned, Pritzker Architecture Prize winning Professor José Rafael Moneo, was commissioned to design the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. He was not deterred by the 5.6 acre site that overlooked the Hollywood Freeway. Just as many European Cathedrals are built near rivers, Professor Moneo considered the freeway as Los Angeles' river of transportation, the connection of people to each other.

 

Two central theological truths guided Moneo's design. The first is that the Light of God is revealed in salvation history, especially in and through Jesus Christ.

The second truth is the sense of journey that people make, alone and together, on the pilgrimage towards redemption in our lives and, ultimately, the fullness of the Kingdom of God in Heaven.

Inspired by these themes of Light and Journey, the architect chose natural light to flood the Cathedral through windows filtered through Spanish alabaster. Capturing the sense of spiritual journey, the entrance to the Cathedral opens to a slightly inclined ambulatory which circles the entire interior of the Cathedral and leads to the light of the nave.

Moneo was born in Tudela, Navarra (Spain) in 1937, obtained his architectural degree in 1961 from the Madrid University School of Architecture, working as a student with Francisco Javier Sáenz de Oiza in Madrid and with Jorn Utzon, designer of the Sydney Opera House in Australia, in Hallebaeck, Denmark.

As a writer, teacher and critic, Professor Moneo devotes almost as much time to education as he does to design, further shaping the future of architecture with his commitment to the modernist tradition. He has taught on the faculties of both the Madrid and Barcelona Universities, the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, New York City's Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies and the Cooper Union School of Architecture, as well as, Princeton and Harvard Universities.

Moneo's architectural designs have encompassed the ancient, the Museum of Roman Art at Merida (1980-86), which is one of his finest accomplishments, to the minimalist monument in San Sebastian -- two translucent cubes that house the Kursall Auditorium and Congress Center (1995). There are infinite variations between these two examples, embodied in everything from residences and apartments, to art museums, a railway station, an airport, a factory, a hotel, banks, a city hall, other office buildings, and now the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
In his Citation from the Jury of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, Professor Moneo is described as "above all an architect of tremendous range. As an eclectic, defined here as selecting and using what is best from all sources, which includes his own creativity, his flexibility in varying the appearance of his works based on their differing contexts is reflected in the way he takes on each new commission as a fresh exercise."

The Jury recognized that Moneo "draws on an incredible reservoir of concepts and ideas which he filters through the specifics of the site, the purpose, the form, the climate and other circumstances of the project. As a result, each of his buildings is unique, but at the same time, uniquely recognizable as being from his palette."

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