Saturday, July 9, 2011

Jumps in Vision and Interactive Metronome and Bucks County Architecture

I have noticed that my depth perception has taken a big jump up since I did Interactive Metronome (IM).  I don't know whether this is a bit of serendipity since I have been doing some eye exercises in free space that are designed to  help with fusion and relaxation of the eyes or whether IM helps with timing and information processing and that helps both the eye muscles and the higher order functions of perception.

I am really starting to see buildings and trees as mass, as big dimensional objects that have weight to them.  Also, the various additions, dormers, and cornices really stand out.  I live in beautiful Bucks County which is filled with old Pennsylvania fieldstone homes and walls from bridges and ruined mills.  As I go by these homes, I can really see the modulations in the coursed stonework stand out.  The walls aren't just brown multicolored planes but bumpy texture.

When white settlers first came to Bucks County, they built a lot of log cabins some of which still remain.  I can now see the filler between the logs as relatively flat and the logs stand out from the filler.  Before I just would have seen brown and white stripes making up the cabin.

As people accumulated more money, they began to emulate the city dwellers in Philadelphia with the Georgian Style of architecture.  Influenced from the Dutch and Palladian movement, these homes and buldings have a rectangular, symmetrical structure and aligned windows.  With my new vision, I can see the different shapes of the roofs pop out in space. Gabled roofs project their triangles out.  I have never been so aware of how many triangles and pyramids there are around me. I can see the slight slope of the top of gambreled roofs drop off gently.  Or hipped roofs gently sloping to meet the walls.

We have a lot of Federal style architecture here in Bucks County as wealthy merchants and farmers favored the new architecture developed by Adams during the American revolution.  I think revolution in society gets reflected in architecture as artisans use their emotional reaction to the revolution to create new things in space and want a break from the past.  So we see and now I can see buildings  with dormers with arched windows,  side palladian windows and curved cornices. Since I can see things projecting themselves outwards, I am starting to see the porticos over front doors stand out to protect people entering the building and the curves and fluidity of the cornices.   Low pitched gabled roofs project outwards.  All new to me.

Driving around the towns of Yardley and Newtown, there are also a lot of buildings in the Queen Anne style built during the Industrial Revolution.  The Industrial Revolution brought new technologies and new connectivity as new materials and new connections were formed with the advent of the railroad.  As opposed to the symmetry of the previous architecture, the Queen Anne style is asymmetrical, with large porches that often wrap around the building.  With my new eyes, I get the sense of space that these porches entail.  Sometimes these homes have second story recessed porches that I can now understand as being inward.  I am having more fun with the different types of towers on these buildings.  Honestly, I never had so much fun with the different types of cones around me.  There are all kinds of cones:  round, square or polygonal. Irregular roof lines with steeply pitched gables are becoming less triangular and more pyrimdal or conical in nature. All new volumes.  Projecting oriels, dropped pendants, and patterned wood shingles are now quite evident to me.  These buildings often have elaborate millwork whose teeth stick out.  Queen Anne's architecture has changed from me focusing on the color of the buldings which are decorated in contrasting earth tones or soft pastels to focusing on the various volumes that make up this type of architecture:  the asymmetry, cones, porches.

All of this  new found appreciation of architecture is not strictly a perceptual exercise.  It is also an evolution in consciousness for me.  These new found volumes start to pose the question of what does this all mean?  And the answer is partly an intellectual one and partly an emotional one that I am just beginning to come to terms with.  I live in one of the oldest areas of this country and am surrounded by history  that dates from pre-Revolutionary America.  I am starting to understand what it means to be literally "surrounded by history" in a physical sense.  What does it mean to have a relationship with volume and objects that were formed in different times with different sensibilities?  The pre-Revolutionary war buildings have a sensibility derived from being a colony.  As we became independent, we built new buildings to reflect our new identity.  As technology changed, we shifted from buildings that were quite solid, massive, and symmetrical to the more fanciful and asymmetrical buildings of the Industrial Revolution.

The emotions that arise when I look at the older buildings of the Georgian and Federal styles are ones of solid, rootedness.  A sense of firmness and a sense that these buildings were built to withstand the test of time---which they certainly have.  There is a sense of order in the universe.  When I look at the Queen Anne's architecture, I have a sense of fun and playfulness in the asymmetry.  I wonder what do people feel like when they go to their towers and can look out in multiple directions.  I wonder what happens with those empty porches today.  The porches aren't empty in a physical sense-- they are often decorated with flags and patriotic bunting and contain rocking chairs or whicker chairs.  But no one sits on them.  Even in fine weather. Maybe in previous times, people sat on them and watched the world go by or shouted out to their neighbors on their porch.  But nowadays, people just have a porch that is decorated for the world to see.   We live in different times and use our new architecture differently.  We are way too rushed and maybe that's all we can do with ourselves.

So, how my vision changes changes how I start to notice the details in the world.  I am pondering how I relate to my new found world.

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