WHAT CATHEDRAL WHEN SPRING 2017 – HARVARD GSD WHERE DORCHESTER, BOSTON
In May 2015, Pope Francis published an Encyclical titled “On Care for Our Common Home”. As it offers a new vision of ecology and rethinks the relationship of the Church with the creation, we believe it maybe the opportunity to find a new impulse in church design.
In that spirit, the erection of our “Lady of the Fields” in the park of Dorchester Heights(Dorchester, MA), aims at revitalizing the space while offering a strong center for the Catholic communal life, with three main objectives: (1) bring the believers’ community in close proximity with Nature, by inviting the garden into the church, (2) call the community of believers to a journey by using natural elements as symbols of the Christ’s Passion, (3) welcome the Other, beyond the community of believers, by using a roof garden.
The church faces the south, the entrance stair is at the north. On the west side, two stairs bring people from the street up to the park on the roof, at ground level. This canopy is landscaped with trees and bushes simulating a dense nature and offering the visitors an Eden Garden-like experience. The building, sunk in the ground, is surrounded by a landscaped slope. Taking the entrance stairs, the visitor enters the church and discovers the central perspective of the main altar, framed by 20 concrete piers.
The light enters through the spaces left between the concrete piers, offering 16 curated views towards the outside. Each view uses both the landscape in the background and a strong iconography to evoke the Passion of Christ. The preciosity of the 14 Stations of the Cross (1), painted by Veronique Charpy, contrasts with the rough minerality of the church. Beyond the aesthetic intent, a deeper theological meaning prevails: the presence of the divine (gold) in the mundane (concrete) or the extraordinary present in the ordinary.
Throughout the day, the light moves from east to west, successively enlightening the stations of the Passion of Christ. The landscape in the background also adapts accordingly: mineral paving for the first stations, vivid and green nature for last ones. The daily cycle of the sun magnified by the “mineral to vegetal” gradation of the landscape acts as a discreet allegory to the Passion cycle. Overall, our intent through this project, is to contribute to the creative momentum for a new Christian building design, that Pope Francis has triggered, away from post-modernist architecture.
(1) Veronique Charpy’s 14 stations of the cross are intentional models, inspired from Maria de Faykod Way of the Cross in Lourdes.