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Defeat

Defeat

As in “snatching victory from the jaws of….”

After several failed attempts, I admit complete inability to design The Square, companion to The Commons at the heart of Agincourt. Together, they’re the community’s yin-yang (which in Chinese means “dark-bright”) and I suppose, in some respects, representative of male and female, but also more representative of the distinction between formal and casual; rigid or flexible. In such a binary universe, my loyalties are clear.

Yin 陰 or 阴 Noun: negative/passive/female principle in nature; the moon; shaded orientation; covert; concealed; hidden; negative; north side of a hill; south bank of a river; reverse side of a stele; overcast; sinister; treacherous

Yang 陽 or 阳 Bound morpheme: positive/active/male principle in nature; the sun; open; overt; belonging to this world; [linguistics] masculine; south side of a hill; north bank of a river

In light of the present discussion, there is also the pairing of Victory with Defeat, I suppose. But it’s too simple to equate them with the notions of winning and losing, and I’m not wired to think that way.

STRATEGIES

The block in question—Block A-2 in the original townsite—is typical, 300 ft by 300 ft but flat and featureless. Wouldn’t it had been a stroke of good fortune to have found archaeological evidence of Native American occupancy, a camp ground, like Gnostic Grove, for example. So physically we’re given nothing to grasp as a basis for design. Even the points of the compass are unremarkable: nothing but the cardinal points of the Jeffersonian Grid. So for any abstract inspiration there is little beyond mathematics of the square, a masculine shape at least. Or is it the right angle that suggests masculinity? The upright? The erect?

If the Square had been designed all at once, the product of a single mind, the task might be marginally easier. But I’d hoped to watch the space evolve during a hundred and fifty years; experience the open-ended process of accumulation.

Attitudes toward War differ from time to time and place to place. As a product of the 1960s and the Vietnam era, I’m disinclined to find any glory in war, so Maya Lin’s eloquent statement of loss—of our humanity, not of face—represents something quite different from the WWII memorial recently dedicated east of the Capitol in Washington. Words like bloviating and pompous spring to mind. But that’s just me.

So I’m back at the beginning, or nearly there, identifying the sequence of memorials and trying to understand the cultural context for each of those wars and sublimating my own views—which is, after all, what designers do.


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