The iconic 250-foot Tower of Hope designed by famed mid-century architect Richard Neutra was honored recently by the prestigious American Society of Civil Engineers for its seismic upgrade work.

Recognized as one of Neutra’s historically significant buildings, the Tower of Hope was built in 1968 by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller and immediately became a world-renowned landmark. For 10 years, the tower, topped by a 90-foot neon cross, was the tallest building in Orange County.

The tower has a narrow footprint, a 13-story exterior staircase open to the elements and an exterior glass elevator that offers dramatic views of the Orange County landscape. It was named for Hope Ministries, the nation’s first 24-hour suicide prevention hotline, 714-NEW-HOPE – a ministry that continues today.

Yet when the Diocese of Orange began considering the required upgrades to help the 50-year-old building withstand earthquakes, both architects and engineers were flummoxed. The common practice of stabilizing concrete buildings involves reinforcement with exterior concrete or even the addition of concrete stabilizers to the center interior. Costs were so prohibitive that it seemed the safest and most logical solution would be to tear down the tower and replace it with an earthquake-safe replica.

“Not on my watch,” says longtime Diocese of Orange volunteer Robert Neal, managing partner of Hager Pacific, who serves on the cathedral’s architecture board. “That would be like demolishing a Renoir. But there was no way to solve the problem with traditional engineering. A lot of people weren’t betting on us.”

Thanks to the imagination and creativity of the team led by LPA Inc., one of the largest integrated design firms in California and Texas, the renovations were made possible using new technology to rescue the structure and make it earthquake-safe. LPA brought together experts from many disciplines to address the unique problems posed by the tower project, including architects, structural engineers and historic preservation experts.

“All of the buildings on the Christ Cathedral campus are remarkable,” Neal says. “The Tower of Hope is a fine example of mid-century modernistic architecture. It has a minimum of adornment, clean lines, lots of glass, and the use of formed concrete in the brutalist style. With tremendous light and space, it appears to be floating or soaring.”

Full story at Orange County Catholic.