Monday, August 9, 2010

I see in 3D...

I'm starting to come back into the land of the living and I'm feeling up to blogging about being able to see in three dimensions. It is an exceedingly strange feeling to say the least.

 Caveat:   I am dictating this post from MacSpeech Dictate so you may see some anomalies in the writings. You may discover that there are some malapropisms because I may not catch similar sounding words in the proofreading. However, it is too much for me to organize myself right now to create a post by typing it. I can always talk. So talk I shall. I will at least run this text through a software program that checks Grammer called Grammerly.  Hopefully, this will fix some of my organizational problems.

It all started in Trenton, of all places. Why Trenton? Why couldn't three dimensional vision have been birthed in a beautiful surrounding? Why not in front of the Louvre? Or the Great Pyramids of Egypt? If my three dimensionality had sprung forth in front of the Parthenon, I would have held forth on the freize and the union of Doric temple with Ionic elements. If it had happened in front of Notre Dame, I would have carried on about balustrades, flying buttresses, archivolts and abutments.

Or, in front of a majestic Manhattan skyline? I could have discussed the Woodworth Building in Gothic revival, Art Deco style of the Chrysler, or the Green Design of the Conde Nast Building.

One town over from Trenton is Hamilton, with its marvellous sculpture garden:
A more befitting place to find three dimensionality I can't imagine. But, as fate would've allow, I am seeing three dimensionality in Trenton. Trenton is one of the armpits of the armpit of this country, New Jersey. People in my hometown dodge Trenton. They go up to Hamilton to take the train to New York even in winter time when parking in a covered garage is preferable to returning to an open parking lot where you have to clean snow off your car.

 Trenton is home to gang warfare, urban scum, potholed streets, falling down houses, and not a lot of good. Especially politicians. It is the state capital of the state renowned for corruption. Somehow the slease of the politicians comports with a deteriorated physical environment. Yet, there have been noted architects who have built in Trenton including Louis Kahn, and Olmstead. More about them later in another post.

I was driving my husband to the train station and on Route 1, looked across the Delaware River and promptly began to notice volume. The buildings seemed boxy or more blocklike. Different sections of the modern office buildings began to spread towards me. I began to see rectangles lots of rectangles on the fa├žade of the buildings and these rectangles began to exhibit mass and weight and volume and power and body. What was flat became molded, shaded, and heavier. I could see relationships between buildings. I could see negative space well defined between the buildings. The old 200-year-old Church of the Sacred Heart, a stucco building in Romanesque revival style, guarding the hopes and prayers of Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine seemed to want to stretch forth its strength, monumentality, and faith into my heart. The famous Trenton makes bridge, with the logo, “Trenton makes, the world takes”, began to look like bars connected together instead of lines flat on the river–maybe, another way to describe this is the difference between the flatness of a flounder compared to the rounder, full-bodied, sea bass.

The modern, international style office buildings projected a corporate, efficient, geometry full of rectangles.  Route One is home to one of the largest stretches of corporate office parks in this country. It is a sign of the change in the way we have changed from an economy that was built on us making and the world taking to an economy where we are part of a vast international, digital ecosystem zipping electronic bits from place to place.

At the turn-of-the-century, Trenton attracted fashionable architects who built homes in Italian villa, Queen Anne, stick style, Tudor Romanesque, and Victorian eclectic style. Around the train station, there are remnants of these homes. They are twos and a half story, some with dormers and some without. Some have turrets and others do not. The neighborhood around the train station has changed for me from a flat postcard to a physical presence full of cylinders, cones, rectangular slabs, cubes, and polyhedron.

I think it is the absolute physicality that is new and startling. I can see now what architects have been trying to say about buildings having an emotional relationship to people and landscape. There isn't much landscape really in Trenton when you use the word landscape as laypeople do and not architects. Trenton's natural beauty, except for the Delaware River, has gone the way that the old factories went. There are some mature trees lining some streets but not much else. There is relationships between different shapes and materials and people. As the architects were building these neighborhoods, they were relating and echoing visual tropes from one building to the next while trying to use physical presence to emphasize solidity, power, prestige, and strength. 

As you cross the Scudder's Fall bridge, and look past the Trenton makes bridge, you see the state capital of New Jersey. The state capitol building is the second oldest state capitol building after Annapolis. Apparently it's grown like topsy, a bit hodgepodge with the gold dome, Corinthian columns, and a granite frieze. This property pops out now from its surroundings. When you see it in 3-D, you have a sense of a state that once took itself seriously and was taken seriously and took a number of detours incorporating contemporary designs and new hopes from new peoples. Maybe in much the same way that New Jersey itself has evolved–there is a sense of dowager grandeur surrounded by decay. Trenton never quite recovered from 1968 riots. 

I guess what I am actually trying to say is that three dimensionality gives you a relationship to things in this world. Without three dimensionality, you are looking at the world like you look at your backyard. You live as an observer and not as a participant. When you go past architecture, evenarchitecture in Trenton, you have a relationship with mass and volume. You have a relationship with the other people who created these buildings. I keep poking around the world like a child... more on my creepings and crawlings to come in later posts.I have been totally overwhelmed by the whole experience... It is delightful to see the world this way and I thank Dr. Herzberg and her assistant, Marianne, for bringing me back into the world.

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