Sin as a Spatial Narrative
A six-month project completed in the last semester of my final year at Nottingham.
Sin can be defined as anything that violates the ideal relationship between the individual and God and any diversion from the perceived ideal order for human living.
Through the transgression of immoral acts, the divine harmony of the soul becomes inflicted with corruption. The act of sinning can be considered as a spatial relative that is embedded within the essence of Lincoln with the Cathedral existing as the main influential entity, being the only true representation of God and Heaven on earth. All other amenities and institutions within Lincoln have functions that contrast against the purity of the church including alternative religious or educational institutions, or places that divulge power within the town; these buildings therefore can be viewed as providing opportunity for activities to sin against the church. The society that inhabits Lincoln also could be suggested to be sinners themselves, since identity is formed from inherited cultural tradition.
As experience draws a parallel between the soul and its encountered environment, this tainted existence may not fulfill everyone’s needs as an individual, resulting in a quest for purgation by some to find the true essence of life. In order to facilitate moral cleansing, I have created a space for a journey of self-identification based on a mediation of realms derived from research into the “Garden of Earthly Delights” and Dante’s “Divine Comedy” since they both narrate the ultimate outcome of a sinful life. The main function of the design is therefore a place of purgatory which according to the Catholic Church doctrine, is an intermediate state in which individuals "undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven". As a parallel to this, the building is therefore a place to question and test the moral identity of the user. Considering all the inhabitants of Lincoln are naturally sinners, they will all have to enter this state of purgatory in order to be cleansed of their sins and if successful, they will be directed to enter the cathedral and so achieve redemption.
Since souls in purgatory are often put through painful temporal punishment through suffering and trials before they are able to pass into heaven, the design will provide an environment that contributes and enhances this. However, since purgation involves testing many disciplines, the individuals will also be led through temptatious experiences similar to those in “Doctor Faustus” as the “Mephistopheles” that resides there attempts to deceive them into them to make a “deal with the devil”. This is achieved in the design through a series of devices/machines that entice the individual to commit more sinful activities as they pass through the building, drawing them further away from the path to righteousness.
The building is located at the foot of the Cathedral at the site of the old Bishop’s Palace. As the building is first encountered the individual will be provided with a choice of two routes– one that will lead him to confess his sins and achieve redemption, and another that will tempt him into condemning his soul. Upon first arrival, the essence of purgatory is presented through the design of a labyrinth or maze-like building, containing a series of columns, tunnels, stairs and paths that do not lead anywhere; this is in order to physically and mentally test the individual.
If the individual is unwilling to put themselves through this testing, there is an alternate route provided in the form of a grabbing machine, connected to the walls of ruins, leading up into the former Medieval Kitchen of the Bishops palace. It has since been transformed into a ritual space where the individual will conjure up the devil before being guided to the next destination. They are then taken through an opening in the walls of the ruins towards a chair lift machine, tempting them into sloth-like behavior.
At this point individuals who have taken the chair-lift machine and individuals who have completed the “purgatory” maze will reconvene in the underground vaults where the Medieval Dining Room used to be in order to make their next choice. They will either be able to go to the former “Lesser Hall” where Mephistopheles’s temptation chamber is, or they will be able to go through to a former study where God’s confessional chamber resides.
In the temptation hall, individuals will encounter the series of “temptation machines” which will provoke them to further sin through the temptations of greed, sloth and gluttony. Upon reaching the end chamber, the individual will then be seated in a relaxing atmosphere where they will chat to Mephistopheles and thus be enticed into selling their soul to the point of no return. The soul will then be taken and stored on the outside of the chamber where it awaits its eternity in hell.
If the individual instead chooses the route to the confessional chamber, they will be presented with a series of steps leading to a point where they will have to perform the mandatory rituals of confession such as kneeling down in a praying position and confessing into a mesh-like screen. At the end of the confession ritual their soul will be redeemed and they will then be free to enter the Cathedral.