Thursday, Dec. 12, 2002

Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe famously said that God is in the details, but modern architects don't always provide many details where God can pitch his tent. For the new LA cathedral, the first to be built in the U.S. in 25 years, the Spanish architect Jose Rafael Moneo produced an utterly modern building that is also a great house of faith. Though its high walled enclosure and yellow ochre exterior owe something to old Spanish missions, the church's vivid angular silhouette is entirely of Moneo's invention. The main portal, set off to one side, feels wrong — skimpy and literally marginalized. But once you're inside, the superbly scaled and illuminated nave, where lights filters in through sheets of semi-transparent alabaster, turns out to be a supremely satisfying sacred space.