Monday, November 2, 2009

Reading, Architecture and Holloween

Architecture 2051 at Vermont Technical College
(top left to right: Holly Walker at her house; Erin Fajins; James Vincent;
center left to right: Michael Wilson; Professor Paul Hartmann and Jamison Cook; Jamison Cook;
bottom left to right: Jess Mosman; Majken Thomas; Ashley Fernandes

I just finished reading The Women by T.C. Boyle, about the wives and mistresses of Frank Lloyd Wright, a novel that vividly brings all the contradictions of Wright's personality and creativity to life, and filled me with images of the horror of love and divorce one hundred years ago. One hundred years ago--that sounds like a long time, doesn't it? Yet Wright is still seen by most people as a contemporary architect and visionary. Just this summer my brother, a long time fan, went on about Wright's attempts to marry buildings with landscape. I remember reacting with a slightly bored, jaded attitude--but reading this book has rekindled my curiosity about him, getting me to take another look at images of his buildings.

Coincidentally to my reading, Holly Walker and Geof Finkels invited us to attend the presentations of the students in Professor Paul Hartmann's Architecture 2051 class at Vermont Technical College. The students had come to their house to see the site, and were making proposals for a pottery studio for Holly. When I was a teacher, I sometimes had projects where students made proposals for real sites, and I know how working this way makes a project really tangible for them. There were actually two classes, and two days of presentations. Almost all of the students took the project very seriously and made clear presentations of their ideas. It seems as if they fell into three categories: an addition to the west, connecting the garage and the house with a studio, or a separate building to the east. After the second critique, I walked around the property with Holly, offering my own suggestions, trying to consider her needs as well as the feasibility of construction by Geof. On Saturday Mark and I went back and all four of us walked around, standing in different spots so Holly could go inside and see if a building where we stood would affect their views.

I love architecture and building, probably inherited from my mother, though I never considered it for myself (though my sister became an architect). Of course the reading and discussions has made me think about buying land and starting over--really getting it right this time. I don't think we are going to move any time soon, but it has to be sooner than later if we are going to do it in our lifetimes. Going into a classroom full of young people coming into their own strengths and ideas was so invigorating. It did make me miss being a teacher and how vital it is for everyone involved (teacher and students) in a studio where questioning is encouraged, and all ideas are allowed expression.

Now I am reading Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. It focuses more on Mamah Borthwick than Frank Lloyd Wright, fleshes her out in a different way than in T.C. Boyle's book, makes her dilemma about leaving husband and children for a married man seem more complex than in his book. She was an early feminist, a creative force who couldn't quite find the right outlet for her own intelligence. I feel that Horan has captured many of my own frustrations through her character. Again, this is a novel based on historical figures. Many known facts are accurate, but it is Horan who supplies the angst and internal conversations. Mamah's frustration about how to use her intelligence is hitting me hard, as I see myself spinning my wheels instead of going to my studio. Good books do this, don't they--make you think about your own life and what you are doing with the gift of time.

Well, Holloween came and went in Randolph along with a fierce rain storm. We live in an area where children and parents from all the surrounding villages, as well as our own town, come to say "Trick or Treat!" I was prepared with too much candy, knowing I could bring back unopened packages to the supermarket. Last year we had between 300 and 400 visitors, this year I gave out about 250 pieces of candy. The rain became a deluge just when I was at the bottom of the bowl. I could open another package, knowing I would end up eating most of it since parents and children were running to their cars to get out of the rain, or blow out the pumpkin and turn off the lights. I choose the later (can you see my halo?). Many of the parents, as well as all the children, were in costume. I remember going out with siblings and friends on Holloween--we were allowed to expand our circle wider than just our known neighbors, so I didn't mind giving candy to all these strangers. Plus I got to take alot of nice pictures.

Trick or Treaters--top picks

More Trick or Treaters

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