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A celebration of harmony
Landscapers put the finishing touch on the Chinese Pavilion in preparation for the dedication ceremony on Saturday, April 20.
An interdisciplinary, cross-cultural project that joined faculty, staff and students with members of the South Side community will culminate with the dedication of the Chinese-Heting Harmony Pavilion at 1:30 p.m. this Saturday (April 20).

“We are dedicating this pavilion to the people of Bethlehem,” says Norman Girardot, University Distinguished Professor of Religion Studies and one of the leaders of the project.

“Historically, Chinese pavilions have been viewed as places of rest, reflection, cultural-artistic interaction and social recreation. It is in this spirit that we hope that the Harmony Pavilion will help to make Bethlehem’s Greenway a vital lifeline of community cooperation and spirit.”

The event will be “magically officiated” by The Wizard of New Zealand, says Girardot, with assistance from Wayne the Journeyman Wizard of Richmond. Bethlehem-based participants include Touchstone Theatre, Holy Infancy School, the Litzenberger House and Earth Day.

The dedication will be held with the “Spring on Fourth” Festival and will include an “East Meets West Harmony” Chili Contest (with support from Fresh Tofu Inc. in Allentown) and a Chinese Lion Dance featuring firecrackers donated by Celebration Fireworks Inc.

Modeled on traditional Chinese carpentry

The pavilion, located on the Greenway between Webster and Taylor streets, follows the interdisciplinary Chinese Bridge Project, which strengthened Lehigh’s historic ties with China. Like the bridge project, which culminated with a classical structure built near the entrance to Lehigh’s Outsider Art Field, the pavilion’s primary support comes through the Henry Luce Foundation, the City of Bethlehem, Lehigh offices and agencies, and a Lehigh Core Competencies Grant.

The pavilion was built by Lehigh students under the guidance of master craftsman Marcus Brandt; Christine Ussler, a professor of practice in the department of art, architecture and design; Wang Dongning, a research scholar in the department of modern languages and literature; Girardot, and volunteers from Lehigh and the city

The structure makes use of hybrid design-build techniques modeled on traditional forms of Chinese carpentry that employ puzzle-like corner brackets and an intricate vaulted roof design. The tiles on the pavilion are authentic pavilion and temple tiles from China.

Girardot also credits the support of his Luce Grant co-principal investigators professors Constance Cook (modern languages and literature) and Anthony Viscardi (art, architecture and design), as well as volunteers Jason Slipp, Rich Foretek, Lindsay Keck, Dave Kirkpatrick, Dan Kainz, and Mark Onopa, the father of Lehigh student Brandon Onopa ‘14, who flew in from Minnesota to help with the construction.

Uniquely challenging “from day one”

The Chinese Pavilion, said Brandon Onopa, seemed “like a natural fit, given my Chinese/Asian Studies concentration as part of my IDEAS major [Integrated Degree in Engineering, Arts and Sciences].” http://www.lehigh.edu/coursecatalog/ideas-integrated-degree-in-engineering-arts-and-sciences.html Onopa heard about the project through William Best, co-director of the IDEAS program and professor of practice in electrical and computer engineering. He found the extracurricular endeavor appealing.

“This was different from my other academic experiences from day one,” Onopa said. “It was announced that this would be a team experience and not an easy one at that. It was the first class I ever took where I was learning right along with my teacher. It also required much more communication and holding others accountable to get their part of the project done.”

Onopa said he and his classmates gladly stayed on the job site long after the class was over, logging whatever time was needed to perfect the design and construction.

“This wasn't just a matter of getting credits,” he said.  “This was a project that we all had invested our pride in, and we worked to get it finished. It also brought me outside of Lehigh's comfort zone and into the community. I have many stories about our interactions with Bethlehem residents from my two semesters of working on the Greenway. This was a huge difference from my other Lehigh experiences.”

In addition to a new-found appreciation for manual labor, Onopa said the project taught him that  
“some of the most meaningful experiences can't always be taught from a book.

“The pavilion to me is more than just a beautiful sculpture. It’s a testament to the hurdles that had to be overcome.”

“This is a tribute to the entire community that supported this project,” said Girardot. “It exposed many students to this incredible network of people who helped elevate it into a life-altering event. It’s a wonderful, lasting manifestation of the spirit of cooperation with our neighbors.”


Photo by Christa Neu