Sunday, June 16, 2013

First week in review

With 20% of our program already over, it is hard not to feel the rush to understand, interpret, and "see" buildings with the eyes of an academic. I, for one, feel an irrational disappointment/frustration at not "seeing it" right away. But reflecting on our conversations with our professors this week (Arijit, Anna, and Jeff), you draw house after house, and only after the 100th house do you begin to visualize patterns, typologies-- the character of a built structure becomes intuitive. So instead of rushing through a (fairly new) process to arrive at an unknown conclusion, it is perhaps better to slow down. Slowing down enhances subtle observation-- allowing us to notice slight changes, oddities, or relationships, clues that will ultimately show us what a building has to communicate.

As a part of the Nature group, I've spent my week at the exquisite Villa Terrace, enjoying lunches on the terrace and cartwheels through the manicured greenery. Such behavior put us in the unique position of experiencing the Villa Terrace as a guest, or even perhaps an inhabitant would during its pre-museum years, allowing John, Matt, and I to wonder about how quiet it must have been before Lake Drive was built. This lends itself to the issue of transition from private to public, the opening up of the lakefront to community spaces and beaches. This will be an interesting point to highlight during our interviews next week: was the manmade beach seen as an intrusion of privacy or as a process of beautification?

I have visited several homes/manors that have been turned into museum spaces, particularly in the UK, where titles and nobility have a much stronger (and ongoing) history. It is always interesting for me to find preserved homes of families who simply wanted to donate their beautiful house. While the A.O. Smith family certainly acquired much company wealth, they were not the county's Lord and Lady-- and therefore, the details of their everyday lives were not coveted or admired in quite the same way as a Lord's doings may have been a source of pride for laymen. In this way, the exhibition of this home proves to be a bit difficult to understand. With much of the original furniture and artwork removed, we are left simply admiring the physical structure and idyllic location, not necessarily the Villa Terrace as a "home." The personal element is slightly removed. What is the museum trying to do with this space? 

After Jeff's talk on Friday night, I'm sure we all agree that the Villa Terrace exists as an ideal spot for guest lectures. As for the rest, it's time for some interviews!