I did not grow up in Chicago, New York or Los Angeles.
I grew up in Albany, Georgia.
While I still consider Albany my home, it wasn’t exactly a thriving metropolis. Our city “center” wasn’t obvious, we had no skyscrapers and no sidewalks. There were no favorite buildings, memorable interiors or picturesque parks.
At the beginning of my undergraduate year, I was only able to name one famous architect – and I quietly felt ashamed that I had not traveled to the exotic locations my classmates had. These feelings quickly melted away as I discovered that knowing and naming great architects and their works wasn’t as important as I would have thought. What became apparent to me was how important my memories were in shaping me at different times of my design career. I will briefly share with you a range of projects that had a profound impact on me and why…
first memories: This is an image of our built-in laundry hamper at the house I grew up in (where my parent still live). It measured 42″ high, 30″ deep and about 26″wide. My sister and I spent hours in cramped space when we were younger – this was our “pretend” car. We would imitate the many conversations we overheard my mother and her sister having. Not only a space for our imaginations, playing in it subconsciously made me aware of my body and the extents of my immediate surroundings. There was an understanding of inside/outside and tension/release. My mother had no idea why two girls would want to play in a “stinky, dirty cabinet”, but we had a blast. This was my first memory of my body in space – a space sized for me. This memory was formed when I was about 6 or 7, but I didn’t understand its relevance until I read “The Poetics of Space” by Gaston Bachelard.
intermediate memories: This memory happened during my final year of graduate school when I visited the Nations Capitol. We of course had studied L’Enfant’s planning early in my graduate program, but for me, talking about a space or place and visiting it are two different things. I finally “got it” as I was leaving Washington, D.C. (via airplane) and watched the clearly delineated city plan grow smaller and smaller as we ascended into the sky. I finally understood what positive outcomes a good city plan has on pedestrian life. Before I saw the big picture, I toured the city so I had an idea of what was where and how I felt in the space. I remember enjoying the walking so much that after graduate school, I moved back and lived for 4 years (sans vehicle)!
influential memories: Long before a visit, the images and discussion about this ionic place intrigued me. The oculus, the coffered dome, the thick, dramatic walls – the Pantheon in Rome, Italy is easily one of my favorite spaces. It’s grand and intimate at the same time. The space, because of the oculus, never looks the same way twice. You have to admire the structure, the sculpture and the articulation of this space. One of my undergrad teaches once had a fantasy that he would share with us regularly: he wanted to be dangled from a rope in center of the Pantheon. Hopefully the rope can hold two people!
What are some of your most influential memories about spaces/places you’ve experienced? Please share…
Cool Note: After starting this blog in late July 2012, this post (spaces of memory) has been Freshly Pressed! I am thrilled that WordPress has chosen this post to be featured on their home page for a short while. If this or another post resonates with you, please “like it” on Facebook, share it with a friend or better yet – you can take this journey with me.