Floating Spirit / Floating Theater
I. The Harbor Goddess
Animist creation myth, commonplace in the East, seems strangely out of place in our Occidental response to the landscape. The personificationeven deificationof the natural, fabricated and imagined features of Boston Harbor and the South Boston Seaport District yields another perspective on the process and goals of urban design.
The opportunity for European immigrants to gain this kind of insight from the careful stewardship of Bostons indigenous Americans was perhaps lost by their victory in King Phillips War. As contemporary American myths (pioneer spirit, cowboys, etc.) apparently fail to address the concerns of city dwellers in an increasingly crowded and complicated metropolis, we endeavor to create our own mythology.
II. Floating Spirits
We envision the Harbor Goddess as product and protector of the dreams and aspirations of all who sail into her and seek access to her shores. A safe haven for the ships of fisher folk and a refuge for the harried office worker. As a being, a living systemnot just a thing, a resource to be exploitedthe harbor as Goddess is worthy of our respect and devotion.
A quiet, reflective moment while having lunch in a harbor-side park, elation while picking up your paycheck at the Fish Pier, a ceremony honoring the memory of lost sailors, or the inauguration of a new sewage treatment plant are all suitable devotional activities. The conciliation of harbor and human spirits is mutually inclusive.
Deification of the harbor suggests a reciprocal, coëvolutionary approach to future urbanism. Fingers of wharves projecting into the harbor are equally fingers of water let into the land. More interpenetration, greater access to the water for the community of South Boston and Boston at large, will create a deeper connection with the Harbor Goddess and, consequently, with the spirit of the city itself.
In this light the city is recast as mythic hero. A deity which supports the ambitions of his residents and makes entreaties on their behalf to the Harbor Goddess. Politicians emerge as divine intermediaries attempting to reconcile an eternal spirit-world with the short-term gains of developers. The construction of skyscrapers along the shoreline becomes overtly, grotesquely ithyphallic.
IV. The Floating Theater
Amusement park and temple, entertainment and ethical heuristic, the dual nature of the theater, in form and practice, is a fitting metaphor for any harbor city. Within the particularly contentious development of the South Boston Seaport the floating theater extends this metaphor.
Theater is an engine of collective imagination; a crucible within which we allow ourselves to be shaped by magical forces. Where there is no land upon which to fashion a stage for this purpose the land must be extended into the harbor so that the Harbor Goddess can, in turn, extend herself into us.