The Ipswich Stations: a landscape way of the cross
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A translation of the Jerusalem pilgrimage site of the Via Dolorosa (the path followed by Christ over the course of his Passion), the Stations of the Cross is a vitally important practice, a frequent subject of art and design, and a prevailing landscape type of the Roman Catholic Church. While individual sets of Stations have been written about from the perspective of art and architectural history, virtually no critical attention has been paid to the subject from a landscape architecture perspective. This lacuna is at odds with the nature of the Stations as a religious rite: a translation of the Via Dolorosa from one place to another, the Stations are a discrete landscape phenomenon—a consistent configuration of elements in space intended to replicate a specific landscape experience. Historically, the fundamental structure of this sacred landscape has been entirely linear: a series of fourteen focal points separated by paths. The aesthetic interpretation of those points constitutes the chief stylistic innovation of the Stations over the centuries, but the underlying conception of space has not been recognized. The advent of Modernism in landscape architecture radically upended designers’ understanding of landscape space, while modernist revolutions in sacred art, architecture, and American Catholicism similarly reframed expectations demanded of designed sacred spaces. After outlining a set of principals defining a modernist conception of the Stations of the Cross, this project uses a researchthrough- designing process to create a proposal for a Stations of the Cross garden at the Notre Dame Spirituality Center in Ipswich, MA. The end products, a site-scaled design and a thorough documentation of the design process, speak to the potential of research-through-designing strategies as a means of translating abstract interdisciplinary concepts into the on-the-ground language of landscape.