Monday, 16 September 2013

The Buildings of Quidi Vidi

Christ Church (right), currently owned and being restored by heritage carpenter Aiden Duff. Duff's workshop (right) was built 10 years ago following traditional Quidi Vidi architectural styles. 

I have a deep attraction to historic buildings, their stories, and people’s interactions with them. I love old structures and I personally dream of buying a dilapidated 18th or 19th century home that I could restore to its former glory with the use of antique hand tools, sweat, and deep contemplation. At the same time, I often find myself asking, ‘Why?’ Does an old building really possess some special importance that new structures lack?  As I reflect upon these questions, I become increasingly aware of the ways in which others interact with their own spaces - both old and new – and the choices they make regarding their dwellings.
Mallards Cottage (circa 1820-1840)
Quidi Vidi is the perfect place in which to engage with such issues. The village is a mismatch of both historic and contemporary buildings. It contains very old examples – one possibly dating to as early as 1749 – as well as brand new structures and everything in between. Interestingly, however, many of the oldest buildings contain few traces of their former selves. Their wooden siding has, in some examples, been replaced with vinyl. Original windows have been swapped out for more efficient variations, and exposed timbers covered over.  At the same time, there are multiple new buildings that were constructed to reflect traditional styles. Some are even built as replicas of buildings that are now gone. Furthermore, two of the community’s oldest structures – Christ Church and Mallard Cottage – are currently undergoing careful restoration aimed at maintaining their historic appearances. 

A modern looking house with surprisingly old roots. This building may have been built in 1749 as a military hospital. 

Fortunately for me, two of the central themes of the Quidi Vidi field school include people’s use of built spaces, and changes to structures over time. As such, I will have the opportunity to further address such themes.  Today, the architectural component of the field school kicked off with the arrival of Ed Chappell, the director of architecture and archaeology at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. For the next week we will be lucky enough to have him teach us about the importance of buildings, their uses, and the ways in which they change or stay the same. I keenly look forward to the opportunity to explore Quidi Vidi’s vernacular architecture, hear what other people find to be important, and explore the various ways in which the residents of the village use their spaces.

No comments:

Post a Comment