Posted: December 9, 2011 in Observations and Commentary
Tags: , , , , ,

We breathe life into buildings so they can serve us. They rise among a flurry of spellbinding expectations, speculations of glory. Their unveilings are accompanied with excessive self-congratulatory celebration by their creators. Speeches are given, ribbons cut. For a brief, glorious period new buildings are treated reverently and tenderly, like a baby. We “oooo” and “ahhh”, say all the right things, and fawn with appreciation. Yet the tides continue to ebb and flow, the sun continues to rise and set until one day our attention is diverted elsewhere. Once that happens, once buildings evolve to full maturity and we turn in another direction, a shameful journey to oblivion begins.

Buildings march through the years holding our secrets and protecting our lies. (Indeed, if these walls could talk!) We eat, sleep, work, entertain and love within their comforting embrace. They bear witness to our most glorious moments and our darkest realities. After a time someone determines their usefulness has diminished. Then they are relentlessly slashed, gutted and reconfigured without mercy. All the while they accept this fate willingly, appearing to subserviently cater to our selfish whims, aiding and abetting our egocentric purposes without complaint. Finally, when we’ve squeezed out all we can, when our desires are fully sated, we toss them aside for a new vision to satisfy the same basic need. We ignore their long-standing role as steady confidant and carelessly abandon them like one would an old newspaper.

You see, we don’t understand their power. With their private sanctuaries buildings offer an illusion of escape – escape from other people, escape from Mother Nature’s wrath, escape from the societal pressure to conform. They offer this illusion while tethering us like a pet. We consider ourselves their masters, yet they effortlessly seduce us with aesthetic pleasures. We work hard to tend to their physical needs, but never at their behest. We restlessly sit in their bedrooms and offices gazing out their windows dreaming of a different and better existence. However, lurking in the shadows of all those dreams another building calmly waits.

Naturally, when the opportunity comes to break free we do so gleefully, desperate to leave behind what we no longer perceive as necessary, despite all the contradictory evidence. The exhilaration brought about by this change fades quickly. Inevitably, somewhere down the line, we will once again find ourselves in another bedroom, another office, dreaming of another great escape. And once again we will remain blind to the beauty which quietly holds us.

We breathe life into buildings so they can serve us, but in truth it’s the other way around.

  1. John says:

    I hope character comes with age (he says as he looks at his birth certificate).


  2. I tried owning a newer home once. It was built in the 1940’s. I went right back to my preferred turn-of-the-century homes. My current house is a hundred years old. Yes, I know that’s new by European, even east coast standards, but I live on the west coast. What can I say? There’s a character that comes with age.


  3. sparklebumps says:

    This is why I want to buy a castle. Because there are stories there, and it sounds so much better than “I live in a split-level.”


  4. kayjai says:

    Have you seen our Jellybean row? They are so old, but continue to flavour our city. Bright colored houses side by side…lovely…


  5. joem18b says:

    I was told when young that I would die in a building, so I haven’t been in one in forty years. I have a tag that I wear on a chain around my neck that forbids anybody by law from taking me into a building in case I’m in an accident and need an operation or whatnot. Let the doctor come out to the parking lot and work on me. They spend a lot of time playing golf, so it should be no problem being outdoors. Hopefully it won’t be raining.

    Or is a coffin a building? Maybe that’s what they meant.


  6. savorthefolly says:

    I love old buildings and old homes too. it is such a shame when someone decides to tear them down rather then renovate them, especially since many new structures really aren’t built to last, while many old ones were.


  7. whiteladyinthehood says:

    I definitely agree with HotSpur! Great post! Can I get a right on, sista?


  8. I love old buildings with history, but I also realize that old buildings can sometimes be unsafe, and it’s sometimes better or cheaper to raze them then to repair them. But like Sandy said, we shouldn’t replace that with a strip of houses that are barely different from each other. Houses that are identical except the color of the front door, or that are mirror images of the others.


  9. I love old buildings. Sadly, in my home state newer is better seems to be the rule. We raze so many beautiful and unique buildings to erect bland cookie cutter buildings, then wonder why our neighborhoods lack personality.

    Another lovely post, John.


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