Before and After: The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Lake Charles, Louisiana

Frequently our 'before and after' series looks at a situation where a modernized church had been transformed into something more traditional, but every once in a while we like to feature situations where there was already a fairly classical design. Such is the case of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Conrad Schmitt Studios was engaged for the project at this cathedral which was focused around the modification of the painted decoration of the building as well as some other features -- such as the installation of a new ambo that was more consistent with the style and design of the altar pieces.

If one looks at the 'before' it is actually quite a noble and tastefully executed structure. 

Aside from the ambo, what was primarily done in this instance was the addition of a bolder, less pastel based form of painted decoration. Now, both approaches have merit, however, the two points I would see as the biggest wins in the case of this particular project are the decorations that now emphasize the vaulting at the point of the transepts and arches of the nave. The use of alternating greys here and on the arches more generally gives the cathedral a kind of Tuscan look and feel which is rather appealing. 

In addition to this, the second point I would highlight is the new colour and patterning found behind the high altar as well as the two side altars, replacing the much more muted design seen in the 'before'. The benefit to this is that if you compare the two approaches, in the new design the altars are now much more visually prominent -- which, to my mind, is one of the most critical features of any successful ecclesiastical ordering and decoration given that the altar is the main focal point of the building (for it is there that the Sacrifice of the Mass is effected). Anything that can help to emphasize the altar, therefore, is almost always desirable.   

This certainly helps to re-emphasize a point we have regularly emphasized here at LAJ, which is that the simple addition of colour and some ornament can significantly transform a church and the interaction of its various parts -- something that Conrad Schmitt Studios seems keenly aware of having proposed a similar approach to other prospective clients as well:

Returning to our current example however, while there are aspects to be found in either of these versions of the cathedral that I might like, even prefer, the critical gains we see in the 'after' is a greater emphasis on the altar and the corresponding cathedral architecture. 

For those interested in this or other project of theirs, please visit the website of Conrad Schmitt Studios or seem them on social media

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