Cathedral Builder

We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey."  (Teilhard de Chardin)

Cathedral Builder

Click on the image above to enter Cathedral Builder

Cathedral Builder Tutorial Sessions

There will be two tutorial sessions for Cathedral Builder at the beginning of the semester. Attending one of these sessions is required in order to complete the Cathedral Builder assignment.

  • Thursday, Sept 8, 9am, Seeley Mudd Room 116
  • Friday, Sept 9, 9am, Seeley Mudd Room 116

“Cathedral Builder” (“CB”) is a computer driven artistic exercise created for Amherst College ARHA 250, “The Monastic Challenge,” as an active complement to the classroom engagement with 12th and 13th century ecclesiastical architecture in France. The purpose of this experiential exercise is both to inform and to record each student's on-going response to the challenge to build cathedrals, literal and metaphorical, that will continue to embody for our era the human and spiritual rather than merely doctrinal aspiration to wholeness exemplified by the grand Cathedrals of Europe.

“CB” has been designed to add a visual/spatial component to the more familiar written journal. Plan for four separate occasions with “CB” during the semester, comprising four steps leading to the design of your own cathedral:

  1. “Practice World”
  2. “Romanesque World”
  3. “Gothic World”
  4. “Cathedral World”

See course syllabus for due dates for your “CB” journal.

The first premise of this exercise: "Art‟ is born of sober restraint rather than unbounded freedom. Although “CB” allows you to be free to choose, uninhibited by bias or prior expectations, it discourages the empty piety of so-called freedom of choice without consequences. Please note that “Romanesque World” and “Gothic World” will require your attentiveness to specific existing values and structural choices as essential components for your structural inventions.

The second premise of this exercise: "Art‟ is an act that identifies and embraces contradiction itself as the experiential basis of our human potential for intimating reconciliation of the necessary realities conscious - that is, "spiritual‟- being entails.

The third premise of this exercise: Participation in “CB,” serves as an experiential encounter with deliberate artistic choice, which in turn may become one instance of "spiritual‟ realization within our shared human journey.

As an exemplary occasion of "spiritual‟ and "artistic‟ aspiration to wholeness from an acknowledged condition of mortal limitation and restraint, “CB” invites you to construct a cathedral according to your own best judgment and choice.

The Cathedral Builder Assignment

Please proceed as follows:

I. "Practice World" (to be completed by 9/19)
    1. Read Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" (Frost reserve: see syllabus biography)

 

    1. Attend an informational meeting with Bridget Dahill, Seeley Mudd Building
      bdahill@amherst.edu Times TBA

 

    1. Enter "Practice World" in the CB landscape. Begin by choosing your building site. Then, using the provided cubes, circles, squares, rectangles, round and pointed arches, colors, etc., construct a cathedral.
      You are free to alter and combine the given components as you will to create this imaginary threshold to your cathedral.

 

    1. As you proceed, consider the specific formal contradictions that your cathedral will embrace. For example:
      1. horizontal/vertical; height/width
      2. solid wall/openings, including windows, portals, and other empty spaces/ “gaps"
      3. surface/depth, including wall projections and indentations
      4. round/straight/diagonal/light and dark accents
      5. symmetry/asymmetry
      6. simplicity/complexity
      7. part/whole, including relative sizes of component parts
      8. building/site, including fitting in/domination, sunlight and directional orientation etc.)

      You are free to identify and embrace any other contradictions you discover as you work.

 

    1. Arrange your component parts in any way you wish, consistent with the "spiritual‟ and "artistic‟ goal of intimating reconciliation of contradictory realities/possibilities (in other words: cathedral building).

      Remember: Both sides of each contradiction are equally good. It is their intimated reconciliation you are seeking in the realization of your cathedral as an architectural equivalent of human aspiration to infinitely elusive wholeness.

 

  1. When you have completed your practice cathedral, proceed to the “replay” section to review and reflect on what you have done. Did you engage a particular contradiction with satisfactory results? Did a cathedral begin to take shape? Your recorded reflections will assist you in subsequent cathedral building.
II. “Romanesque World” (to be completed by 10/24)
    1. Proceed to “Romanesque World” to construct a cathedral that embodies your best sense of the structural and "spiritual‟ values of the “romanesque" era. In “Romanesque World” you may either attempt to copy an existing “romanesque” cathedral or invent one of your own consistent with “romanesque” "spirituality.‟ Please indicate which path you chose. Remember the task is to construct intimations of reconciliation of contradictory realities!

 

  1. Having completed your “romanesque” cathedral, return to the “replay” section to review and reflect on your re-imagined “romanesque” construction. Which particular contradictions and intimations most vividly embody “romanesque” "spiritual‟ values? Assess the "artistic‟/ "spiritual‟ successes and failures of your “romanesque” cathedral. What did you achieve? What did you sacrifice? What seems to be lacking? Give your reasons for the choices you made.
III. "Gothic World” (to be completed by 12/5)
    1. Proceed to “Gothic World” to construct a cathedral that embodies your best sense of the structural and "spiritual‟ values of the “gothic” era. Again, in “Gothic World” you may either attempt to copy an existing “gothic” cathedral or invent one of your own consistent with “gothic” "spirituality.‟ Please indicate which path you chose. Remember the task is to construct intimations of reconciliation of contradictory realities!

 

  1. Having completed your “gothic” cathedral, return to the “replay” section to review and reflect on your re-imagined “gothic” construction. Which particular contradictions most vividly embody “gothic” "spiritual‟ values? Assess the "artistic‟/ "spiritual‟ successes and failures of your “gothic” cathedral. What did you achieve? What did you sacrifice? What is lacking? Give your reasons for the choices you made. How is “gothic” "spirituality‟ different from “romanesque” "spirituality?‟
IV. “Cathedral World” (to be completed by 12/21)
    1. Proceed to “Cathedral World” to construct a cathedral that embodies your clearest vision of intimated reconciliation that will be your threshold to “wholeness” beyond the contradictions of mortal being, including those that divide “romanesque” and “gothic” "spirituality.‟ In the previous three “worlds,” you have constructed cathedrals merely for practice with Cathedral Builder and according to specific structural and cultural values. In "Cathedral World" you are free to apply anything you have learned or imagined during the semester as you invent your own cathedrals, including multiple elevations (e.g., north, south, east, west), interior/exterior, directional light and color. Let your cathedrals embody your highest spiritual  aspiration. 
  1. Having completed your cathedral, return to the replay section to review and reflect on your accomplishment. As before, assess the choices you have made and their implications for the "art‟ you have sought to achieve. Could Raymond Carver's blind character “see,” “hear,” “enter” your cathedral?
V. Conclusion (please include your final reflections in the designated space of “Cathedral World.” Due 12/21)
    1. How has “CB” informed your sense of what it is to be a “spiritual being on a human journey?”

 

  1. Finally: Characterize your experience of “CB.”
 

Taking Notes