Renovation called upon best talents of artisans, craftsmen
By Rebecca Summers
Special to the Key
KANSAS CITY - Inspired by the new millennium, the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph gathered architects, artisans and tradesmen to write another chapter in the history of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Albert de Zutter/Key photo
David Nesbitt and Luis Florez, decorative finishers, complete detail work on the capitals on top of the pillars inside the cathedral.
With the laying of the cornerstone in 1882, a growing Catholic community imagined a permanent cathedral on the edge of a rolling hillside. Their gift of faith left its mark for all to know that people lived, worked and prayed in this region.
When the diocese marked its Diamond Jubilee in 1955, the next generation saw their mother church as a symbol of Christ amidst a growing center of commerce and industry. They renewed brick, stone and wood to give witness to the pulse of life in the Catholic community.
Over the past three years, the Steering Committee for Cathedral Renovation orchestrated another chorus of hammers and saws to ready this place for the next generation. And so the page turns, and this sign of the gift of faith remains on the hill.
Liturgical Design Consultant - Carol Frenning, professor of art and architectural history at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., was selected as the artistic and environmental consultant for the restoration and preservation process. Frenning is a graduate of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, and her research focus is American religious architecture. She hoped that her contribution to the renovation of the cathedral would be to capture the "Spirit of its place" - that is, the Heart of America. Frenning makes her home in Twin Cities and counts the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis among her noteworthy projects.
Interior Architectural Design - Shaughnessy Fickel and Scott Architects Inc. brought the interior of the cathedral to life for the current renovation. Established in 1973, the firm has provided architectural services to 18 parishes within the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Mike Shaughnessy serves as principal architect for all religious projects undertaken by the firm, and designed the cathedral's interior. During the 1970's, he served on the Diocesan Liturgical Commission and helped parishes modify worship space to meet the changes of Vatican II. Senior associate Marsha Hoffman served as project manager for the interior renovation.
Exterior Architecture - Berger Devine Yaeger returned the exterior of the cathedral to its original luster. Founded in 1973, the Kansas City firm offers consulting and solutions for architectural, engineering, planning and surveying needs. Since inception, the firm has maintained a practice specialty in the design and renovation of religious facilities. For the cathedral, Tom Devine served as principal in charge, and Mike Brenizer was project architect. In addition to re-gilding the gold dome and developing a thorough exterior maintenance plan, preservation efforts focused on brick, stone and ornamental iron.
Cathedral Pipe Organ - Famiglia Artigiana Fratelli Ruffatti (Ruffatti Brothers, Family of Artisans) of Padua, Italy, trace the roots of their craft back a couple of centuries. Antonio Ruffatti purchased an organ firm in 1936 that had been making organs for 150 years. The firm is now in the hands of sons, Piero and Francesco. They are responsible for rebuilding, rescaling and revoicing the Cathedral's organ to match acoustics in the renovated space. The house of Ruffatti's resume includes the production of 500 instruments of various sizes.
Stained Glass Window Design and Conservation - Monarch Studios' Michael Pilla evaluated each of the Cathedral's 16 historic stained glass windows and developed a process for conservation. "There is an opportunity to use the windows to orchestrate the light," Pilla said. "You can't treat these windows as a separate museum element. They are part of the liturgical structure of the entire building." Pilla makes his home in St. Paul, Minn. In his studio, he designed and crafted the rose window dedicated to the memory of Bishop John J. Sullivan. Often found in Europe's grand Gothic cathedrals, rose windows honor Mary, the mother of God.
Stained Glass Window Restoration - Conrad Schmitt Studios, Inc., of New Berlin, Wis., is one of the country's oldest and largest stained glass studios. The Cathedral's stained glass windows were varnished approximately 50 years ago. Over time, the shellac darkened and the colors became muted. Conrad Schmitt removed the shellac, re-leaded the 16 windows and replicated broken pieces. Among the firm's most recognizable public use projects are the windows in St. Louis' Union Station.
Altar and Liturgical Furnishings - Architron designed and coordinated the fabrication of the Cathedral's altar, ambo, cathedra, ambry, tabernacle stand and the immersion baptistry. Phillip Broussard's Twin Cities' home inspired designs that resonate with Midwestern pastoral scenes.
Stone Carving - Paper and Stone's Janey Westin and Charlie Hughes worked hand-in-hand to bring to life the stone carvings found on the Cathedral's altar, ambo and cathedra. Westin began her career as a calligraphic artist and, in the mid-1980's, expanded into carving, composing mosaics, and sculpting three-dimensional art pieces. A commercial graphic designer, Hughes partnered with Westin to complete the life-size marble sculpture of Saint Maria Goretti for the Cathedral in Dodge City, Kan., and the sanctuary furnishings in Kansas City's cathedral.
Photographic Documentation - Architectural Fotographics' Steve Swalwell captured the process of the Cathedral renovation with his camera. Founded in 1960, the Kansas City firm serves clients locally and throughout the nation. Commercial architectural photography services include traditional and digital location photography and processing facilities for color and black and white prints. Swalwell completed undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Missouri and earned a master's degree in photography from the University of Iowa. He also has taught at the Kansas City Art Institute.
General Contractor for Interior - A. L. Huber General Contractor guided the internal restoration effort and kept the project on schedule. For a century, A. L. Huber has been a force in regional construction projects. An expert in church construction and renovation, A. L. Huber has built more than 100 churches and was general contractor for the historical renovation of Conception Abbey in Conception. The firm specializes in financial, educational, industrial, office and retail construction.
General Contractor for Exterior- Mid-Co Contractors planned and scheduled the expertise brought to the preservation of the cathedral exterior. Experienced specialists from the building and trades professions restored the gold dome, masonry, brickwork and ornamental iron detailing. On the east and west elevations of the building, crews returned the capital detailing that originally graced exterior columns, and stone masons crafted new ground-level entrances.
Preservation of Exterior Brick, Stone and Masonry - Norton & Schmidt Consulting Engineers used the broad experience of their engineering team to evaluate the cathedral. With 23 years of service, project manager Andrew S. Ratkewicz relied on his ability to prescribe techniques for preservation of brick, stone and masonry. Since 1967, the Kansas City firm has served a variety of client needs for new construction and renovation of existing structures. Professional services include structural, civil, mechanical and electrical engineering services.