Thursday, April 11, 2013

Shaping a conviction or two

It was good to go to the first public forum last night on the cathedral designs. The Press reports here with a photograph that manages to keep ADU's feckless correspondent completely anonymous! I thought the presentations were well made and most questions reasonable.Some questions were unreasonable, at least in the sense that they were little more than statements-of-position tweaked with the addition of a question mark at the end. The general thrust of questions, and the sentiment betrayed by enthusiastic applause was 'restorationist', i.e. support for Option 1. But what did I make of the evening as I try to keep an open mind on the strengths and weaknesses of each design, as well as a listening ear to the voice of the Canterbury people, both Anglican and non-Anglican.

I found as the evening settled into domestic bliss on returning home that a couple of convictions formed in my mind. (I stress that I am talking about my inner convictions, formed goodness knows how in my subconscious, I am not trying to present arguments for these convictions).

(1) We, the Diocese, need to talk carefully about costs of building and settle on the cheapest (according to a special formula) option.

Tens even hundreds of millions of dollars are being mentioned in relation to the three proposals. At a certain point it is required of disciples of Christ that we take into account all our Lord's teaching on wealth and weigh the possibility of doing something expensive and beautiful for him (cf. anointing him with costly perfume) with the possibility of doing something generous and transformative for the poor of our community and the world.

I suggest that means we go for the cheapest option with this twist that came out last night. Costs should take into account ease and speed of fund-raising. The Diocese, we were told, cannot or at least should not take out a mortgage in order to build the cathedral (e.g. because it would be imprudent for trustees to do so - I tend to agree).Thus we need to fund raise and then build. The longer the fund raising period the more building costs will rise. The more building costs rise the more expensive the final cost will be. Here things get interesting.

Last night the 'restorationists' argued that the greatest support of benefactors will be for restoration (Option or Design 1) so fund-raising will be (so to speak) easy and quick, quicker than raising funds (even lesser totals) for the other options. Diocesan officials are doubtful, factoring in a long period to raise a large sum of money (up to $30m more than Option 3). I do not know who is right (but let the generous supporters for D1 send their offers in writing in now!).

But I now understand, as a result of last night, that the 'true costs' of each design is (in my words) a special formula which I attempt to express in this way:

True Costs = Predicted Costs of Building ^ Factoring in Length of Time to Build ^ Factoring in Length of Time to Fundraise ^ Predicted Disposition to Generously Support Specific Design.

This means it is very complicated, and (short of indications being given in writing that generous cheques will be written out) very subjective to determine which option is 'cheapest.' Our Trustees and Chapter need the wisdom of Solomon ... (or maybe not, I seem to recall that Solomon went for a particularly expensive cathedral option in his day :) ).

(2) If costs were set aside as a factor, my feeling today is that I would vote for the new (hoping if not assuming that a number of questions about it lead to modifications of the concept).

Nothing in particular was said last night to lead me in this direction. Indeed some things were said last night which raised important questions. For example, I learned that the projected exterior surface of the Design 3 new cathedral is copper. Potentially good, potentially lasting re colour (it won't necessarily go green in Chch), potentially stealable! Views on copper, in the comments, please :)

Nevertheless, thinking about a range of things, including safety in future earthquakes, re-usability of the cathedral after another earthquake, dreaming of a more 21st-century-user-friendly design, today I am firmly in the D3 camp. With my questions.

Here is a question I have about the language we are using. Are the three proposed options 'designs' or 'concepts'? I have found that raising some questions conversationally about Option 3 I have been told 'Peter, it's a concept not a design'. 'Concepts' being changeable drafts towards a 'design,' I get the distinction. I wonder, however, if questions are not raised, how readily a concept would become the design!

If (1) and (2) seem somewhat contradictory I simply plea that I am giving you the state of my convictions, not setting out a coherent rationale for how we might proceed!


Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, this may not be quite a historic first for us; but I find myslef agreeing with you on almost every point of your support in favour of option 3.

We already have a very useful blog-site dealing with how the modern option might be configured to adapt to both liturgical and social functionality in a cathedral for today. Fr. Bosco Peters' indication of the need for a more central site for a baptismal font (or pool?) seems reasonable - as well as an accessible focus for the altar.

As Christian education is largely focussed in the parishes, it would seem not necessary to provide too much in the way of 'classroom' facilities suggested by some. However, a large worship area with movable seating seems a laudable objective.

The cost is always an important consideration. The longer it takes to build, the greater the cost - is certainly one important factor. This is one of the reasons why option 3 seems the most practical.

My prayers are offered for the Cathedral Trust; to manage both the provisional cathedral and the new Cathedral in The Square, with grace and due diligence.

liturgy said...

Easter Season Greetings,

Thank you Peter for all you are doing in this regard; being a blogging presence at such meetings. I have followed your link, and also read the Press article and watched the video.

May I join you in thinking aloud – thinking allowed…

On the video of the meeting, I saw the morphing to these Options being “concept drawings” – with the tower in Option 3 needing development to incorporate the bells…

So, essentially – we have Option 1: we know what we are getting; Options 2 and 3 – not so much…

I was also interested that the sooner we get the building up – the less the difference in costs… Cost wise, Option 1 does not sound so different to Option 3 if we act sooner…

There might be quite a bit more financial grunt behind Option 1?

From the church perspective, as usable worship space, is there really much difference in the ground plan between Option 1, 2, or 3? Each, we are told “would still have a crossing and a knave [sic]”.

“Gregory said the team needed to proceed with the three options that had been presented.” So are the “concept drawings” still malleable enough to look at a more contemporary worship space? Otherwise, if people come up with pledges to cover Option 1, what is the reason for the church to proceed with other options…

I hope it's clear I'm not voting Option 1... I'm...

Thinking aloud…

Christ is risen!


ps. Are you the knave, Peter, or is it me...

Bryden Black said...

One comment Peter re the font. May I recommend the design (more of that in a minute) from my diocesan alma mater. One enters the cathedral in Harare to be confronted in the middle of the central aisle by a pool (fenced off for safety, with gates both ends, for entry and exit) in the shape of an egg, and tiled with designs on the bottom, some five foot down. At the far end of the pool is a more traditional font, outside the fence and by the exit gate. Water rises from the bottom of this font, down the side and into the pool; so one has the sound and the smell of fresh water all the time. I think Bosco would like it! I certainly did/do!

Re “designs”: architects always play this game, from concept drawings to final designs. When we designed our own home (first and last effort!), we kicked around the concept plans for some 12-15 months, before settling upon a true design. This process is normal and necessary. I’d fully expect the feed-back of the likes of David Pickering and Bosco re gathering spaces, with a more communal feel (a circle - like the RC cathedral in Liverpool, fondly called the orange squeezer!), to shift some people’s minds - and hearts. However, does the shape of the streets and the square itself already determine the foot-print possibilities? Is that why D1-D3 all have more or less the same outline? If so, then we are on a hiding to nowhere, frankly! Such a foot-print screams a particular theology of a particular era, both of which are now well and truly past - thank God! Yet, strangely, I live in hope ...