Tuesday, July 31


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Last night I saw a picture of an ancient Roman ruin. Then I looked at Stonehenge. And I wondered about their connections. Each was the product of an entirely distinct civilization which overlapped not at all. We think of them as solid pieces of some ancient history. But how solid were they?

Look at my image of the Watt & Shand building at the epicenter of downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Here the facade of a grand building has been stripped from its body to be grafted around a new Convention Center. Like most cities, Lancaster once had a thriving downtown dominated by a large department store. The age of the mighty department stores lasted what? Eighty years? Sixty? Fifty? And then, the automobile pierced their economic air like a pin through a bubble. A romantic attachment to those years has developers piecing that Watt & Shand department store skin onto a body the same way cosmetic surgeons are diddling with breasts, noses, and now even entire faces.

I wonder how long Stonehenge was functional? Twenty years? Sixty? Because it's old, we think of it as epochal. Almost eternal. A legacy of a vast civilization. When in fact, it might have been culturally or economically intriguing for one or two generations. The Celtic equivalent to a long lasting television series.

As much as people seem to like the Watt & Shand ruins, I wonder when the folks in Lancaster will decide to create their own cultural contribution. Something that says that we were here as well. Or we ARE here as well. I worry that we are becoming like the folks who lived around ruins, unable either technically or culturally to take any farther steps.

Hey, preservation's a good thing, but so's progress. It's something the Americans who built this Watt & Shand building believed in. I wonder if we've lost that vision as we paste the skin of old ruins onto today's expressions?

GEEK STUFF: Canon EOS 20D, Canon EFS 17-85mm (f4-5.6),1/400 at f/13, Exposure Bias Value: -1, ISO:200, Focal Length: 22 mm, Date: 7/31/07 @ 6:01pm, Flash: Off, Metering: average, Camera RAW


pnfphotography said...

Very thought provoking indeed. I live in an area with such rapid growth that every style of building is mixed and toxic plants are allowed to pollute our beautiful blue skys, homes being built with no sewer to service them. I think growth is a good thing but needs to be done wisely. My favorite saying here is NO ONE know how to THINK....ahead

advman said...

Hmm ... preservation is a typically Austrian discipline, so I certainly understand you. I always marvel at the French: tearing down Les Halles, fitting Centre Pompidou into its current environs, the great axis from La Défense via Arc de Triomphe to the small Arc in Louvre, the glass pyramid there, all things that would be impossible in Austria for their daring, and in the US for the grand plan that is only possible to implement when directed by a government.

Still, I find French architecture cold and lifeless at times. Strange? Not?