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The Old Urbanism (1.2)


As an adult, it’s difficult to play seriously.

We once knew how but lost (or, more likely, had taken away) those childish ways as a part of “growing up.” Read Diane Ackerman’s Deep Playa guide for those of us perplexed by adulthood’s disengagement with wonder. I wonder most of every day: how to see what’s hidden by the trapings of sophistication, the veneer of knowing that my way is better than yours. I wonder how to teach. I wonder what tomorrow will bring. I wonder if there will be a tomorrow.

The ARCH 472 studio moves ponderously slow. But now and then, not often enough, but now and then…


Luke is a born story-teller. He writes well, which can’t be said often these days, but saying it does nothing to diminish my admiration for his abilities; the relative rarity of something doesn’t lower the bar. Building on the Millerite movement of the early 19th century (those folks who had calculated the moment of the Rapture, gave their possessions away and waited with stopwatch in hand, then recalculated, and reluctantly got back to living, calling it “The Great Disappointment”), Luke has brought the story to the banks of Crispin Creek, already known in the 19th century as a site of Revival, the creek standing in for the River Jordan. I’m glad for this part of the story being told by another, because I couldn’t do it with the requisite conviction. Luke is creating a character with an inner fire that will inevitably leave its mark on the community. And some of that mark will be architectural.


Megan, in her own way, is also addressing that metaphorical hourglass and considering what happens when that last grain of sand falls to the cone-shaped pile in the bottom half. I’m closer to that moment than she is, so it’s of special interest to me. There’s already a cemetery in Agincourt, just across the eastern edge of the Original Townsite; three cemeteries, in fact, for Protestants (and heretics like me), Catholics, and the much smaller Hebrew Burial Ground. [I once asked someone to actually design the non-denominational cemetery and encountered my own Great Disappointment. But that’s water long gone under the bridge to the Sea of What-might-have-been.] All I know about Agincourt’s begraafplaats (that’s Dutch for cemetery and so much more charged than the English word) is its name—The Shades—and that there is a sign at its entrance, in ancient Greek, that translates “We are dead. Save tears for the living.” Megan is at work on a crematorium and columbarium, a place to reduce the body to ash and to preserve the remainder of what we were physically as a reminder of our passing through. There are certainly religious considerations here (well within my interest and comparably far beyond my ability), but I think it is the spiritual dimension that engages me. Our cemeteries say at least as much about life as they do of its opposite, so I’m anxious to play in that corner of the sandbox for at least a little while.

There are many other explorations underway: a public library (ostensibly from the early 1970s, but not quite yet in the spirit of Modernism); a municipal power plant; an asylum, soon to close and be recycled as the new Normal School; and someone’s fascination with the Brutalist movement in architecture during the 1950s and 1960s. More on those later.



1 Comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    Well, everyone has a historical place, cemetery or hidden street in mind that they would find interesting to visit. What’s important here is that we can share our experiences to everyone so that they too can appreciate the things we like.

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