Wednesday, 18 September 2013

If Walls Could Talk

Monday we began the section of the field school on vernacular architecture.  Ed Chappell, an architectural historian who works at Colonial Williamsburg, is our guest lecturer and has been teaching us how to draw architectural floor plans. During the past three days we have learned the techniques used to draw floor plans and have spent several hours discussing their utility. I’ll have to admit, as someone who was drawn to folklore, almost exclusively, on her own obsession for people and their stories, architecture fell somewhere on the scale between mildly interesting and hardly interesting at all. While historic buildings possessed a certain aesthetic and historical significance that I found fascinating my interest was grounded in the people who lived there, rather than the structural artifact itself.

 However, yesterday, as we stood in the Mallard home mapping out its dimensions, meticulously examining the wood, carefully estimating the approximate location of relics now absent, I realized that this home and these vestiges of the past told a story, a very intimate story about the residents who once lived there. The ropes and rags that peak through the wooden panels snuggly positioned along the wall, the remnants of a small lobby roughly etched into the wood, the special elements of the room, and the methodically placed windows all collectively illuminated the past experiences, technologies, and even daily flow of life for the residents who once inhabited the Mallard home. 

There is the saying “if these walls could talk…” well I am beginning to think that they do, but we need special skills to make their voices audible. (And after today, I'm realizing it takes a lot of work to make them audible.)

Ed Chappell sketching the outer
walls of the Mallard Cottage

Beam on North wall of Mallard Cottage
Artistic shot of the window, roof, beams, and lighting
fixture in the Mallard Cottage

Ed Chappell drawing floor plan

Christine Blythe's feet on original wood floor
in the Mallard Cottage

1 comment: