Monday, August 23, 2010

Going back to my alma mater in 3D


There's nothing like walking down memory lane.  Since I had a doctor's appointment in the neighborhood,  I went back to my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania
and took a stroll down Locust Walk.  In my undergraduate days,  I had traveled down Locust Walk from my dorm to my classes.  I had never seen Locust Walk like this before.  There is an archway of trees over the walk.  I can feel the protectiveness of the canopy.  I can see the archway of trees more like a hollow or a burrow stretching backwards.
The "Bethlehem of Money", the Wharton School of Business,  where future portfolio managers are born is a lot softer with the trellis of green in front.
Or, the Candy Cane twist of the chimney of the Christian Association.    I don't know how to describe the feelings I have with a building where I lunched on many a pizza.  I remember it one way... but it was  in a fashion without as much of an emotional connection... I think maybe what I am trying to say is I had never seen the chimney before at all.  I had never seen the triangles and squares and other shapes that protrude and stretch towards me.  I think it is having a sense of other people's creation that is new to me. That someone like an architect saw this patch of ground and created something that had a harmony with other people's creations and a harmony with the piece of earth on which it rests.
The peace sign and the trees and the s lamp post are all placed in a symmetry in space in a graduated walk.  I get it now when a landscape artist talks about the connections these objects have with each other.  There is a tie that somehow binds the objects and the life around them.  An energy, a mystery, a spirit all mediated in space.
Bookmark and ShareHere's the Furness library, the Fine Arts Library, where I am sure Louis Kahn spent many hours.  It's a Venetian Gothic Behemoth molded in red sandstone and brick and terracotta.  20 years after the Furness library was built, it was considered an embarassment  "looking from one end like a French cathedral and from the other like an elaborate greenhouse".  The architectural historian Michael J. Lewis called it "a cheeky act of architectural impertinence" and "the last of its kind".  However, when it was finally restored in  1991, it recieved rave reviews and won many awards.   But, to me,  although I had seen it on a daily basis for four years, I never appreciated its might, never knew there were stained glass windows with quotes from Shakespeare, or understood the cake like design that beckoned towards the Mont Saint Michel inspired Irvine Auditorium.
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