The Architekt Douglas Cardinal in the Goetheanum in Dornach
On 15th November Douglas Cardinal, born 1934 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, gave a public review of his architectural work. He presented buildings covering 40 years of creative activity and he led his listeners into a world of cultural empathy far beyond the international mainstream. Where are the creative sources of his architectural ability and what is it, that makes these buildings so significant ?
Cardinal emerged from an aboriginal Métis Blackfoot family, which looks back on a highly developed culture, cherishing a tradition of sharing, fairness and brotherly love. They were the original native inhabitants of Canada. He experienced being different when the indigenous cultures collided with the European immigrants and it was this confrontation that shaped his character.
In his talk, Douglas Cardinal described how he experienced the paternalistic-hierarchical social structure in Canada, which builds on authority and control. Fear seems to press every person into a system. An individual is called upon to find his role in the hierarchy that governs him. Only those at the top are seen as of merit. This is the principle he and his indigenous people suffered bitterly and almost caused their extinction. Using his architectural language Cardinal stood up for his people, for fairness and an equal footing, by building churches, houses and schools. This was, and still is, a long and strenuous path.
The artist created his singular Building style by merging architectural impulses not only from Europe, but also from Rudolf Steiner, with the ancient wisdom if his indigenous culture. He aims at renewing the heart thinking forces of indigenous cultures, who turn their love towards nature in full respect of the human being. Cardinal is internationally renowned and has been acknowledged for his organic architecture
The front of the Canadian Museum of History is marked with smooth flowing Waves, and shows a double domed building inside. Round shaped classrooms can be found in schools constituting a harmonious whole with the functionality of the building. The round shape expresses respect for the individual - in a circle one experiences equality, every individual is acknowledged and granted full appreciation. Cardinal saw in the round shape a way of conveying these fundamental values to indigenous children.
Cardinal understands architecture as a means to make the world a better place to live in. As an advocate of organic architecture he cherishes the holistic approach, bringing all the participants of the architectural process together to create a legacy for the future, letting the past, the present and the future play a decisive role.
The artist resists succumbing to the conventional principles of contemporary architecture, by exploring the boundaries. Already in the sixties he was one of the first among his colleagues to use a computer to calculate complex organic shapes, i.e. wonderfully described by the swinging roof of his first sacral building, St Mary’s Church in Red Deer, Alberta. Despite computers being horribly expensive in those days, his architectural practice was one of the first to realise all the drawings electronically. St. Albert‘s Place, in St. Albert, Alberta, achieved legendary fame because it was the world’s first building using computer supported architectural techniques to scale all the construction drawings.
The Canadian Museum of History (formerly civilisation) was opened in 1989. It is located in the Hull area of Gatineau, Quebec, directly across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario. For its construction only local natural materials were used. The exhibits don’t start with the migrants, but go back to its original people and the museum's primary purpose is to present material objects that illuminate the cultural diversity of its inhabitants.
Cardinal developed buildings for most fields of life. Schools, health centres, museums, theatres, office buildings multi-purpose buildings, industrial buildings, churches, spiritual centres, hotels and flats.
Cardinal creates Architecture by listening carefully to the people who will later live in and use the buildings he is conceiving. He discerns practical needs, harmonises them with his own cultural tradition and works towards meeting the requirements of its spiritual conception as well as its functionality.
Cardinal integrates the natural environment as a part of his holistic intention. That is the reason why the buildings differ strongly from region to region, which is the case especially with indigenous communities and city planning.
One central theme runs through them all: community building in the sense of consonance of the heart forces. This for him is the prime motif for building. Cardinal is one of the visionaries of the new World, equilibrating beauty and harmony, as well as creating a common vision among client, architect and stakeholder.
In 1989 Douglas Cardinal was awarded the Order of Canada in the field of architecture for his unswerving devotion to top performance in all his projects. His architectural script stands for sustainable elegant buildings.
Seija Zimmermann a member of the Goetheanum executive council, invited Cardinal to the Goetheanum. “When I met Douglas for the first time, I was deeply impressed by his humanity, fully devoted to the present day and giving it an expression without imposing his spiritual impulse. What fascinates me how he uses living forms as a present-day language integrating the respective religious traditions.”
Heike Sommer, Dec 5, 2017