The idea is to put in a public place – real and virtual – a visible symbol that is witness to all who see it that prayer provides sure hope, inexhaustible comfort and strength, in everything good that we do and say.
The objective is that its symbolic presence should place it firmly in a long tradition of Christian iconography – where the symbol has played a central role – to create a recognisably sacred space.
To do this well is a particular challenge when it has become commonplace for meaning in structures and art to be hermetic and geometry to be used according to criteria which are only aesthetic and utilitarian.
The geometry used is rigorously symbolic. A long axis – the Via Salutis – symbolises the Way of Salvation, along which people are invited to walk. The smoothened path through the million bricks representing answered prayers is in the shape of a cross. Water – a well established symbol in all major religions – is channelled alongside the main body of the cross, making the journey along it akin to crossing a bridge. The square geometry – traditionally representing the Cosmos and the Earth – changes to curves and rises, pointing up to the sky, introducing the axis mundi and the circle, traditionally adopted as a symbol for Heaven. This part of the concept can be developed to contain the spaces for quiet meditation and contemplation.
The million ‘bricks’ representing answered prayers are bound by stakes. These ‘spears’ or ‘nails’, perhaps each representing a particular intention, join the bricks so they are seen from a distance as a unified poetic shape. Close up the surface reveals the richly varied texture that reflects the variety of a million different prayer intentions.
The open brick bond allows light and rain to pass into the shaded spaces, allowing the structure to weather and change over time, adding to the sense of mystery and revelation.
DELIVERY OF THE PROPOSAL
The symbol on its site should be orientated to place the longitudinal axis pointing to the rising sun in the East. The main face of the open bond brick will face south. On bright days, shafts of sunlight will illuminate the shaded spaces on the north side of the wall.
Construction would utilise straight stainless steel rods to reinforce the dry laid bricks. It would be a simply understood and straightforward way to overcome the practical problems of assembling incrementally. A simple change of angle of the straight rods produces subtle curves. This avoids the uniformity which can result from unimaginative modular repetition.
Servicing and sustainability are important considerations. The proposed orientation and geometry lends itself to the use of exciting new developments in solar generation of electricity. The use of 3D solar cells incorporated in the structure, could power the water pumps and basic services in the spaces for visitor shelter and meditation.