Kristian Knorr
Cand.aarch MAA

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Relations in contrasting architecture

Concerning Aarhus Cathedral and Theatre

Relations in contrasting architecture

You are standing in the very heart of Aarhus – at Bispetorvet. Here you see two very significant buildings rise from the busy city surface covered in paving stones. Aarhus Cathedral and Aarhus Theatre. Even though build in very different times, these two buildings have become more and more aware of each other. This is especially expressed by the copper devil on top of the Theatre looking at the Cathedral. Besides just acknowledging the Cathedral devil very clearly reflects the green roof of the Cathedral. So you may start to wonder how the two buildings relate to each other? How they relate to the city? And in addition, how they will relate in the future?

Looking back at the past, the two buildings have more than 700 years of history between them. They are build in two very different cultures. A very significant result of this situation is that the Theatre was built with the Cathedral in its context. In contradiction the Cathedral was constructed without the need to recognise the, at the point, non-existing Theatre.

The Cathedral’s ignorance of the Theatre is clearly stated by the facades. First of all the Cathedral’s entrance is aligned towards Storetorvet. Storetorvet is a neighbouring square of greater historical and cultural importance than Bispetorvet. Seen from Storetorvet the Theatre is in the background and furthermore; no matter how you enter Bispetorvet you will always be astounded by the sheer scale of the Cathedral. This feature takes away a large proportion of focus from the decorated façade of the Theatre. No matter where you are standing in the two squares the Theatre will always be perceived as of less importance.

Besides the Theatres lesser presences, it is also harder to imagine what lies within it. Even though the Theatres doors are somewhat transparent, they do not tell much of the inside. The Cathedral on the other hand tells us a huge amount of data just by looking at it. We know from experience that Cathedrals always consist of one great room in the middle and many small ones in the tower. This makes us experience a phenomenal transparency incomparable to the Theatre. Combining this with the literal transparency of the Cathedrals vertically vast windows makes the Theatre look like a mystery box – placed next to a see-trough religious monumental structure.

The Cathedral is truly monumental in its massiveness and historical detailing. In addition to this uniqueness, the green roof is now more unseen than ever – enforcing that the Cathedral is more objectified than the Theatre. The Theatre contains a somewhat large amount of ornamentation, which in the sheer amount, cannot be compared to any other buildings around it. However, the reason why it does not apply as an object is that the build style is relatable to many other buildings in the city. In addition, the Theatre places itself between two pivoting streets, creating the effect that the building outgrows from the city-fabric. Dissimilar the Cathedral is a freestanding and psychologically elevated structure. It relates noticeably less to the rest of the city and thieves much of the cultural and architectural focus from the buildings surrounding it.

The Cathedral and the Theatre relate in some sense – but only from the initiative of the Theatre. Besides their traditional looks, they share surprisingly little, mainly because of the Cathedrals significant appearance. As the architectural development advances, they will undoubtedly connect better and better due to their traditional looks. Especially if metal and concrete get a more dominant role in the architecture around them. Transforming the two buildings into old monumental objects. However, the buildings are built in different styles and there will surely always be an architectural gap between the two buildings.

Trinity Church, NYC

Trinity Church, NYC

Before you now walk away from Bispetorvet, try to imagine New York City, and more specifically the Trinity church. If the Trinity Church had an old companion build in any traditional style, the buildings would probably look like two aliens instead of one there is now. They would be categorized together. Their relation depending deeply on the context they are situated in.

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