Cathedral dome: Landmark exterior hides intricate interior
Posted July 25
Raleigh, N.C. — The dome of Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral has become one of the city's newest landmarks, as it can be seen from many places downtown and across southwest Raleigh.
The copper skin of the dome hides a series of catwalks that Clancy & Theys Construction designed with the aid of 3D software.
"It was like threading a thread through a fine needle hole," said Harry McKinney Jr., the contractor's director of virtual design and construction.
To get to the catwalks, maintenance workers have to climb 320 steps, and they then have to work in what amounts to a giant bird cage to perform tasks such as changing light bulbs.
"To really understand this complexity and the number of catwalk levels you need to access the sprinklers and lights, just making it all fit turned out to be one of the biggest surprises of all," McKinney said.
He said he spent three months designing the steel interior of the cathedral. Meanwhile, the rest of the dome was constructed with a longer timeframe in mind.
"The materials chosen, particularly the copper roof, is there because that material will last for centuries," he said. "That's the intent – it will be here generation after generation."
A crane lifted the 162-ton dome into place atop the cathedral in March 2016. Eight contact points had to be hit with a margin of error of less than a half-inch.
McKinney said everyone at Clancy & Theys held their breath during the 30-minute lift.
"Our company leaders were there. The bishop was there. A huge crowd was there," he said.
The process was expected to take three hours, and McKinney said everyone there was relieved it was accomplished much sooner.
"That's when everybody finally exhaled and inhaled again," he said.