Friday, April 17, 2009

Redefining the Ritual of Groundbreaking

I have been thinking about ritual this past week, probably because of Easter. I love the rituals of the church, especially during Easter and Advent. But whatever the time, the constant of ritual is grounding. I also thought about ritual in relation to building the other day, after having an interesting lunch discussion with someone. There is a ritual for building -it's a groundbreaking ceremony. But as we talked it occured to me that the groundbreaking focuses soley on what is TO BE built, that is an object, versus the action of building and creating a new environment upon a site.

Building is a profound act. It is the point where the built environment –our creation, man’s creation, meet’s the natural environment, God’s creation, Earth. In the age of creating a more sustainable environment however, is a groundbreaking enough? What if a more in-depth ritual were to become a part of each building site? An example of a ritual associated with Earth, and which could be transferred to building, are Rogation Days, a ritual blessing rarely used today. Initially a Christian substitute for the Pagan celebration of Robigalia (see endnote), Rogation Days were observed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Ascension Day, and were days set aside to bless the fields, crops, plantings, and livestock and to ask for God’s blessing on Creation and the upcoming growing season. In many ways, it was an annual celebration and reconnection with Earth, God’s gift to us, as well as a reminder of the interdependency all creation shares.

Transfer this to a groundbreaking ceremony. What a wondrous groundbreaking ceremony it would be, to traverse the building site, glorifying its flora and fauna, its creatures, and its waters. What too, would it be like to say thanksgivings to all the same that would be removed to make way for the new building, recognizing what they have given the land and us. In effect, we would know and become more deeply connected to the site and to the land upon which we are about to build. It would no longer be just the building site. In addition, a similar ritual would be held for the completed building, giving thanks for the resources being used by both the building and its inhabitants, and also recognizing how the building sustains and nurtures its inhabitants as well as flora, fauna and creatures residing on the building site. The building would no longer just be an object either. Rather, it would begin to become a true manifestation of our experience and establish a deeper connection to Earth.

Maybe it's me, but a golden handled shovel just doesn't seem to be enough anymore.

Endnote: In Roman mythology, Robiga (meaning green or life) along with her brother, Robigus, were the fertility gods of the Romans. Her festival is the Robigalia and is on April 25. (From Wikipedia).

Image: University of Wyoming groundbreaking ceremony, October 5th, 2007


Anonymous said...

Well written article. Our Camfil Farr's Facebook fans love green building news. You should post your story to our wall at

drzz said...

For those who read French, here is a good explanation of BIM - IFC :, and what the French call the digital model/sketchup/mockup (maquette numérique).

The Ahir said...

Thank you sir, this is a Fabulous article. Thanks for sharing with us. I learn many things from this article.

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