Welcome to the 8th Edition of #Architalks. This week’s topic is “Favorite Place,” via Marica McKeel (on behalf of Bob Borson who is currently focused on the annual Playhouse competition in Dallas). To read the rest of the posts from other architects, please scroll to the bottom of the blog post after you’ve read my take. Thanks!
So, let’s get started…
What is Your Very Most Favorite Place On Earth?
For me, I immediately think of childhood places in my home state of Ohio: spending time in Catawba Island, Lake Erie on my step-grandfather’s sparkling new 42′ Chris-Craft yacht, or running around in Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, or playing out in my backyard in Columbus, setting up a game of pretend Olympics during Spring Break, or hanging out in my parents’ basement rearranging old furniture and junk to create zones and special play areas.
Being Online Can Be A “Place:”
Not all places are physical. We can go places online. Facebook forums, for instance. Back in 2009, I had gotten so caught up in a debate thread that I had started on OBOCE (it was called “Study Group for Atheists”– don’t ask…). Anyhow, things had gotten really heated and I needed to step away from the computer; my then 8-year-old daughter begged me to join her and my husband in the pool. As soon as I dove under the water, I experienced a feeling of complete tranquility, utter calm. It was a stark contrast from the intense bickering I’d left back at the computer; it was as if I’d put my head under water for the first time in my life. I opened my eyes wide under the salt water and looked around at the aqua blue walls of the pool, I studied the undulations of the bottom, noticing stray leaves and rocks that had sunk below, and I looked up toward the surface of the water to see the sun’s rays streaming through. But I heard nothing other than the muffled sound of gently splashing water and my daughter’s carefree laughter. It was glorious. And I suddenly realized that I had unfortunately immersed myself in a “place” – online – that I didn’t need to be, a “place” that was neither edifying or productive. It was lunacy! What I hadn’t realized was the online behavior I’d allowed myself to be subjected to was nothing less than verbal and emotional abuse.
We All Have Endured Some Non-Favorite Places:
Perhaps like you, as a child, I sometimes had to go places that were not of my choosing. One rainy afternoon in particular, I encountered one of the most depressing rooms I can remember as a child– it was small, about 8′ wide by 10′ long. It was not pretty, it was very boring with all chalk-white painted thin wood shelves stocked full with plain white sheet music stacked in some order that made no sense to me, and the jalousie style window, operable with a crank (but you wouldn’t want to), had glass panes that were all blurry as if they had been permanently rained on. The view was of a white sky and some overgrown shrubs; no promise of a sunny day to look out upon. Nothing about that room was inviting. It was a storage room, after all, located on the far right side of the back entrance vestibule to the main sanctuary when facing the main road, except no one hardly ever entered that way because most people would come from their Sunday School classes which were located (opposite the back entrance) behind the pulpit and baptistry. The only times I remember people entering through the double doors was during Vacation Bible School when they lined all of us kids up and we marched in to a song being played on the piano or when there was a wedding or if newcomers visited for the first time. Most of the time, people exited those doors only after the service on Sundays, to shake the pastor’s hand and to comment on the sermon or the weather. Since then (the 1970’s), the congregation has hired an architect and they’ve rebuilt the sanctuary so the entrance from the Sunday School building is actually at the back of the sanctuary and the pulpit has its back to the main road. In other words, they switched it around. So, everyone’s happy now. And I’m assuming the old music room has been re-designed and relocated near the choir room, but I’m not sure.
Your Personal Sanctuary
I think most of us would agree that a favorite place is one in which we feel safe and comfortable, unconditionally loved and welcomed. As part of my recent “sabbatical,” I went on a mini-vacation to Lake Austin Spa Resort in Texas Hill Country. It is a beautiful and luxurious property, with delicious food prepared by professional gourmet Chefs and great views of luscious landscape and water, ran by gracious people. However, my family wasn’t there so I was lonely at times. And, since the rooms’ exterior doors open directly to the outdoors, there wasn’t that extra layer of security I’m accustomed to in most hotels.
How Would You Describe Your Favorite Place?
Is your favorite place in a building somewhere? Or is it outside? Is it famous? Or is it a low-key spot off the beaten path? In a meditation program I attended years ago, one of the mental exercises they guided us on was to imagine our “safe place.” It could be anywhere. The speaker asked us to close our eyes and describe in our mind’s eye, to ourselves: what was our place like, was it beautiful?, who was there?, where were we?, what did the fabric feel like”, were there any pets?, and to go on and describe the things in our “safe place.”… It was a very calming and rejuvenating experience.
A ‘Sense of Place:’
In architecture lingo, we like to talk about what we call a “sense of place.” It might be a place of historical value, or an architectural wonder that we describe as awe-inspiring, or a building that has the wow factor.
But, I’ve visited The Guggenheim Museum in NYC, for example, and frankly, I did not feel a strong sense of place there. No, instead, the museum docents moved us along, forbid us to take pictures, and parts of it were under re-construction. It didn’t flow, and the museum store felt awkwardly located, constricted and crowded– definitely not a place you’d want to linger and browse– the opposite of a “favorite place.” In other words, just because a building is considered an iconic work of architecture, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to create a sense of place.
On the other hand, my family and I couldn’t get enough of Time’s Square when we visited in fall of 2013. It was constantly hustling and bustling with people and colors and images changed and flashed all around, keeping us continually entertained. It wasn’t *my* “favorite place” but it definitely had a “sense of place” I shall never forget.
My Criteria for a “favorite place”:
is one that is~~
- Has a good view or interesting focal point
- Is inviting
- Where my family is
- Filled with people whom we mutually enjoy each other’s company
So, what about you? What is your criteria for a favorite place? Please share in the comments section below…
And now, here is the list of other architect bloggers who are participating in this round of Architalks #8:
Marica McKeel – Studio MM
Do You Have a Favorite Place?
Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture
Where Do You Like To Go When You Aren’t Working?
Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture
Andrew Hawkins, AIA – Hawkins Architecture, Inc.
My Favorite Placein the Wild
Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect
Evan Troxel – Archispeak Podcast / TRXL
My Favorite Place
Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC
ArchiTalks meets #ThisOldHouse
Cormac Phalen – Cormac Phalen
Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design
Making Space and the Favorite Place
Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect
Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC
Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
Amy Kalar – ArchiMom
Michael Riscica – Young Architect
MIT Chapel – My Favorite Place
Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL
Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect
Jonathan Brown – Proto-Architecture
Eric Wittman – intern[life]
my [first] favorite place
Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect
My Favorite Place
Thank you for reading this far!
As has become my customary ending, I’d like to leave you with a song:
Thank you, Lora. I appreciate your taking time to read and comment on my take on this week’s topic and I look forward to reading and sharing your post as well.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Thank you for your insights! Appreciate your openness and honesty in terms of your past experiences. It certainly helps to get to know you better.
The example of the gallery experience is an important one in terms of a sense of place. I must say the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa is successful in that regard. While approaching the gallery from a block back it’s form and high vertical presence starts the art experience for the visitor. And upon entry the interior architecture continues to whet the appetite and accelerate this uplifting experience leading to the exhibitions.
My favourite place would be about 9000 feet above the earth piloting a sail plane. Imagine soaring like an eagle riding the heat waves rising from the earth: no engine sound or vibration, majestic views, and only the slight sound of air as it moves over the wings.
It’s great to hear from you again! I love your description of your experience of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. I think one needs to be purposefully aware of the environment to enjoy it the way you do.
I can’t imagine being brave enough to fly in a sail plane. I had to check it out on YouTube to get an idea of what you’re talking about. I consider myself adventurous, but I don’t think I would have handled the situation as quietly as the young lady in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mH2sXEP7710.
I would have thought your favorite place might be on the water. You surprised me there.
Thank you so much for taking time to read and comment on my post. I always look forward to your thoughts.
Have a great weekend,
I love your beautiful description of the peace you found underwater. I think we all need a place like this to retreat to when we just need to walk away. It’s certainly true for me that solitude and children can bring me back to center every time! Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for stopping by my blog and reading this post. It’s an honor to have you here.
Yes, I think I need to find more time to put my head underwater ;/)
And the privilege of spending time with our children when they’re young and still want to hang around us cannot be underestimated.
Have a great weekend!!
Hello Tara once again: My problem is I have so….many favourite places and you are right water is one of them. I have the tranquil one that I often express in my paintings: the meandering rivers and streams of the Great Lakes headwaters bring a sense of calmness and self reflection for the viewer. The other favourite is sailing: it’s the slice in time when the boat leans to one side and you hike over the opposite side to keep it from capsizing. Surprisingly you no longer hear the wind, only the sweet music created by the hull and it’s friction with the water.
Great topic Tara thank you,