Monday, February 16, 2009


Daniel Forrest Hoffman

As I look around the city I grew up in I see many structures being cleared to make way for newer buildings. In addition I notice an American custom of romanticizing our history. We do this through naming rivers after Native Americans, and by commemorating where old buildings once stood. This practice seems to represent a disconnect between the city and its inhabitants; a disconnect between place and subject; a disconnect between people and culture. I wonder where that disconnect lies and how we repair it before we destroy things that we really want.
While living in Rome I noticed the ruins of one amphitheatre of which my guide didn’t even know the history. With so much historically significant architecture the city could have easily demolished this in favor of a new building, which would have utilized Rome’s space more efficiently. Instead they reinforced the structure and put apartments inside maintaining the historic fa├žade. I immediately contrasted that to my hometown where we had just demolished Veterans’ Stadium. Now “Vet” Stadium I’m sure wasn’t nearly as historically significant as this ancient Roman amphitheatre, but many people had memories there. It was a part of my hometown.
Thinking back on my travel experiences and the reverence for place and history that exists in the inhabitants there, illustrated a sharp contrast to my hometown. It seemed that one of the major differences is that as a country of immigrants we have such shallow roots that we have no real investment in place. Personal and community experiences create an investment in place.
How do we relate to our homes in a culture where the physical structure of the home probably will not last? Is the structure important? How are our memories impacted by the practice of demolition and reconstruction as opposed to simply renovation? How does all of this impact family? How do the memories of a place live on after that place has been demolished? These are questions I wish to address in my work.

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