The Tower of Hope at Christ Cathedral, designed by Richard Neutra in 1968, has won the prestigious Citation of Technical Achievement, awarded by DOCOMOMO U.S. in its U.S. Modernism in America Awards. The honor is equivalent to winning an Academy Award within the fields of architecture and engineering. It is the sixth major award that the Neutra complex has received recently.
The award announcement noted: “The Modernism in America Awards is the only national program that celebrates the people and projects working to preserve, restore and rehabilitate our modern heritage sensitively and productively.”
“DOCOMOMO is the preeminent modernist organization in the world, and to receive a citation from them is high praise,” said Rob Neal, managing partner, Hager Pacific in Newport Beach, who worked as part of the team led by LPA Inc. that consisted of architects and structural engineers who contributed to the restoration.
“This is the finest work many of us have ever done in our careers, including my own,” Neal said.
Neal said the entire team was committed to making a statement in their work about the important role the Church has played for over 2,000 years in the area of architecture and engineering.
“It was critical because we felt that for 2,000 years the Church was the leader in architecture, and it’s only been in the last 100 years or so that we’ve surrendered our leadership role. We were determined in our work here to restore that,” Neal said.
The restoration project was coordinated by Tracy Bejotte, chief operating officer of Christ Cathedral. Neal noted that her background in real estate was integral to the renovation work that took place on the Arboretum, the Tower of Hope and Large and Small galleries.
“This award confirms that we met a very important goal we set for ourselves,” Neal said. “The goal was to make sure that the work done by the Diocese of Orange would be done to the very highest standards.”
“The DOCOMOMO award is a ringing affirmation of that,” he said.
The biggest challenge, he says, was to take architecturally significant buildings that were 40 to 50 years old and preserve and restore them, but to do it in a way that they were fully functional for the Diocese.
“The Arboretum alone has between 12,000 to 15,000 people passing through it for worship each week,” Neal said. “The Tower of Hope is fully occupied form top to bottom and it had to be safe.”
Neal concluded: “We were really burdened by the obligation to make sure that if the worst happened [in the world], this would be a place where people would find community, security and their faith would be available to them.”