Forged in the same fires of our famous Liberty Bell, “The Christ Church Great Bell” is a living instrument that still carries the sound of our countries revolution, which fought for freedom and tolerance. It is a working testament to the endurance of this great American experiment. At one time, sitting with its sister bells atop the Christ Church bell tower it rang to inspire ideals of equality in our forefathers… to call to sermon those seeking a path and ultimately to sing the first notes of the birth of a country. For a time it lay underwater, hidden from the enemy. For a time it was lost, estranged from its people. In our time it hangs in patience, eager to resonate in the ears of a new generation.
Our proposal, a restrained and modest addition to the north courtyard, is one inspired by the Bell’s potential to have context and continuity with the many visitors that will gaze upon it. This context is created by keeping the bell at eye’s grasp. It is context created by not just seeing the bell – at a distance or as a museum artifact - but rather experiencing the bell in all of its detail, character and patina. It is continuity created by the stories that surround the bell in written word, and those spoken by its passionate guides. It is continuity created by allowing the bell to be a tangible and approachable record of history.
The second source of inspiration, continuity, is one that our proposal aims to emphasize and facilitate. This idea is expressed two-fold. One is very much architectural in form and the other is best described as ephemeral. The physical representation of this historical continuity can be seen expressed in a simple yet considered structure that forms a base for the bell. Inspired by the restrained form and elegance of the church interior, the large stone base is a canvas upon which the bell’s historical weight can been seen affecting both the surface and finish. It is a simple metaphor for the Bell’s contribution to our historical record, in time past, present and future unknown. This deformation, while denoting a particular date within the historical timeline, also represents a current and modern tool to amplify the bell’s acoustics. And here, now, with this simple act of a controlled and measured ringing of the bell, continuity is achieved in the eardrums of current generations. The simple experience of hearing the bell up close and feeling its resonance is a singular moment that ties our past to the present and bringing with that sound a direct, powerful connection to a past otherwise intangible.
Our design team, as witness to the eyes and expressions of complete amazement of those within earshot of the bell ring, feels this is the moment history becomes present. It is the moment when they are reminded that Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and our founding fathers experienced. It is the moment the bell once more actively represents all those ideals inherent to its history.
The bell bests serves its community by staying close, visible, and connected. It best lives on by allowing itself to be a source of wonderment to the curious young; by being a tool for education; by being available and unafraid of its people and by acting exactly like the freedoms it represents.