Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Reaching Through the Shadow

Our friend, the architect Jim Rhodes, has been working on design of a 9/11 memorial. Here is a video that very nicely communicates the conceptualization and design work. An inspiration and affirmation of our day.

What I particularly enjoy about the design of this memorial is that the interpretation will always be accessible.

This is in contrast to such structures as the Old Stone Mill in Newport, RI.

A while back on a visit to the mill I remarked to our group, as we contemplated a bid on repairs, that we ourselves could build a funky masonry structure with all sorts of odd elements to it, stones sticking out here and there and geometric alignments with the nose on the Face on Mars... and 300 years hence people would stand and look at what we done here with our time on the planet and wonder what in good graces was in our heads, if anything. My personal vision to construct a giant brick bear out of old salvaged bricks in the side yard out near the street. Such a project, as with a 10,000 year clock, could fuel much speculation of future generations and lead to the creation of currently unknown religions and the comfort of other movements of contemplation.

So, with Jim's memorial design I am very pleased that all of the elements in the composition feed smoothly and clearly into an accessible narrative.

And then, I also like this video of the movement of the steel beam. The convoy on the highway with the flatbed truck in the lead, the flag draped beam, and the lights flashing on the vehicles behind must have been an eye turner. It would certainly turn my eye.

As many will know I like to play with stone and a need of the memorial construction is to split a large boulder of basalt. I and a few other friends have been feeding in to Jim our knowledge of precision stone splitting.

But I have another story to tell here, about steel.

One of our former employees. in a former company, went down to Ground Zero on 9/12 and got himself signed up with the Iron Workers. I always called him the ROMANTIC when he worked for us. His spirit of volunteerism certainly was in a romantic spirit. He spent the duration of the 'clean up' at work to cut steel beams. At the ceremony of the last column to be cut it was he that worked the torch.

The iron workers were in the habit to cut out pieces of steel, many of them in the form of crosses. After all was said and done he came back to visit us in our shop with a basket full of cut pieces.

This here is my piece of remembrance.
Lastly, I have always been moved by my friend Michael Drummond Davidson's account of his 9/11 experience published in the Gator Springs Gazette.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday, September 5, 2011

My Favorite Polish Dutchmen

To hide a repair to historic fabric is to graffiti under another name.
In the USA in a repair to historic fabric the tendency, what I contend is an illusion of falsity, is to hide the repair.

I, for one, take a delight to see repairs that are obvious and that shout out that they are an historical intervention. They took place at a time with materials and technique that we can read as strongly as any patina. If we have the eyes. All within themselves they become as micro-fictions to the overall narrative of the entire built landscape.

Should the bullet holes be covered over any more than the thorns?

The clean lines, the invisibility of matched color, the exact tone of surface to make the repair invisible reveals a preservation philosophy driven by an abstract bureaucratic aesthetic of rule that has lost respect for the innate qualities of the material, of nature and of the environment that we exist within.

These Polish dutchmen, for me, illustrate in their detail and over-profiles, in the lack of their precision to hide, an understanding of the long-time of an old culture. They reveal a sensitivity to the temporal nature of the traditional tradesperson who yesterday and today had a hand to touch and was not a trickster made to hide their smile.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Hammer in Hand: An e-newsletter from Preservation Delaware devoted to hands-on preservation.