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Eclectic

ec·lec·tic (əˈklektik) adjective

1. deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources: “her musical tastes are eclectic.”

2. PHILOSOPHY: of, denoting, or belonging to a class of ancient philosophers who did not belong to or found any recognized school of thought but selected such doctrines as they wished from various schools.

There is a story about creativity I’d like to share with you.

In the 1960s some folks at a major university—it may have been Princeton—decided to asses the presence of creativity in a broad range of the design-oriented public. Their cross section included both artists and architects. Among those being tested were Eero Saarinen, Philip Johnson, and several others whom we would identify today as leading lights of mid-century architecture.

Among the battery of tests administered to each of them, one involved a number of one-inch-square ceramic tile—pure primary and secondary colors, plus black and white. The fastidious Philip Johnson took the test in a simple room without distraction. In it, only a table and the box of tile. The challenge was to make a pattern of the tile. I don’t know if an orthogonal grid was provided; makes sense if it was, since the grid would provide a single, simple physical rule for laying them out. Johnson emerged from the room, exasperated in a theatrical way and broadcast his dismay to others in the lounge who had taken the test earlier. “The colors were ghastly,” he announced. “I used only the black and white.” Among the others who had already taken the test was Eero Saarinen, about whose character I know very little. But his alleged retort to Johnson says volumes about his personality. “Oh, really,” he replied. “I just used the white.”
One imagines that Johnson’s architectural hubris was bruised.

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What this means for Agincourt is anybody’s guess. Today, however, I think it relates to the organic additive nature of creating a community from scratch. My matrix is the Jeffersonian Grid of range and section lines that define most of the U.S. west of the Appalachians and Agincourt’s Original Townsite which occupies one of those sections. And my seemingly bottomless “box of tile”  has been the notions that come from shopping eBay, from having lunch with a colleague, from reading and looking and professing, which is, after all, what they pay me to do. My ideas come from two primary sources: ordinary conversation and common postcard images. So when this one showed up recently, I thought immediately of the northwest corner of Sixth Street NW and Agincourt Avenue.

Eighteen months ago I had written about Forrest Culp and his daughter Myra, who operated a tourist court (i.e., an early motel) on the site at the western entry into town by the Agincourt Bridge. They had become part of the backstory to the city’s first modest post-war suburban development, The Orchard, and incidentally linked to the Great Depression,to  Sheriff Pyne (one of the community’s genuine good guys) and fishing in the adjacent Muskrat River. Agincourt doesn’t have much topographic range—I need to fix that—so this image registered as acknowledgment of the sloping land on the Muskrat’s east bank. Could this stilted house be the home of the Culps, father and daughter? With the corner of a tourist cabin on the far right? [The inconvenient building in the left background can be photoshopped out.] And that basement entry on the left side of the house (i.e., toward the river) would also make an ideal place for the sale of bait, worms and leeches, on lazy summer afternoons.

I can almost hear crickets in the late afternoon light.


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