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St. Thomas More Catholic Church

Renzo Zecchetto Architects

Shared By

Symone Garvett

Project Name

St. Thomas More Catholic Church

Project Status


Year Completed



22,000 sq. feet


Catholic Diocese of San Diego


  • Renzo Zecchetto
  • Alex Garcia
  • Rob Rombold
  • Minya Radenkovich
  • Michael Stebbins
  • Taylor Hsiao
  • Sebastiano Zecchetto


  • Structural Engineer: Miyamoto International
  • Civil Engineer: Buccola Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineer: MA Engineering
  • Electrical Engineer: Kruse Associates
  • General Contractor: T.B. Penick & Sons
  • Landscape Architect: Greg Hebert
  • Other: Robert Habiger
  • Other: John Nava

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Project Description


A church for 1,100 people is part of a three phase project for a Catholic parish in Oceanside, with which the firm has worked for over twenty years. Located on a hillside at the intersection of Melrose Road and Cannon Drive, the parish grounds also include a 4,000 square foot community hall, administrative offices, and surrounding garden courts.

The church is built on the highest elevation of the site, with a 60 foot bell tower lending visibility and definition from afar. The solid volumes flanking the bell tower oppose harsh Western sun with staggered walls and clerestories that filter light softly into the interior.

Inside, the design of the sanctuary celebrates the congregation itself as the center of liturgy. Pews made of cherry wood from the Pacific Northwest are arranged in a semicircular layout to encourage interaction and visibility among parishioners. Overhead, cherry ceiling louvers envelope the congregation and choir, providing a sense of warmth and unity.

At the altar, angled walls of cross-cut Chilean travertine and raw concrete deliver diffuse light onto the sanctuary’s focal point—the crucified corpus. The bronze sculpture was created by artist Lynn Kircher; the cross frame by Renzo Zecchetto Architects.

The building takes advantage of natural sea breezes for cooling. An underfloor plenum supplies conditioned air through the perforated supports of the pews.

The eastern elevation is defined by transparency and openness: the narthex is here reimagined as a curtain wall and overhang that welcomes parishoners directly from the courtyard and gardens.

The glazed courtyard doors further increase accessibility and visual connection to the rest of the campus and its outdoor spaces which, thanks to the temperate Southern California climate, provide year-round places for contemplation and repose.
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