Yale School of Architecture (savanna)

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    Shackled by History

    By savanna
    Sep 27, '05 5:43 PM EST

    Colonial Williamsburg is historicism in action; an oxymoron that attracts thousands each summer to tour the past. But whose past is it? I was pleasantly surprised that the team of architectural historians and patron-enthusiast who toil diligently in the background of this grand façade are well aware of the guiding principals of historical materialism (as put forth by Walter Benjamin). They are passionate, even, about the effort to represent repressed discourses among the dominate ones, i.e., the dirty details of slavery. Although the board of CW has installed a slavery tour, so to speak, within the confines of this whitewashed little town (by which I mean that 0.1% of the visitors were people of color, from what I could discern), the reality of what it was to live in the early days of slavery is deleted. One of the few descriptions of Williamsburg by a traveler in the 18th century mentions not the architecture or grand axes of the town plan, but the hanging corpses of three slaves on display at its gateway. I applaud the efforts of the scholars and their supporters, but I doubt the truth will sell many tickets, and this place needs revenue. A “bridge to the past” links a sprawl-era hotel complex to the border of the historic center, with twin sets of bronze plaques inlaid in the concrete. One tells of lost luxuries as you move into the past: 1940, You Watch No TV; 1880, You Cannot Travel More Than 70 Miles a Day by Land; and, 1860, You Know People Who Own Other People. It's amazing that “other people” could be used as a euphemism for slaves””could anything be more soft-of-hand? It should say, You Are Either a Slave, a Slave Owner, or a Landless Peasant. Of course women could own nothing at all and were legally kind-of slaves themselves.

    We got to take a vacation, the 11 of us, in a lush landscape full of wildlife. I can't complain. I saw a praying mantis for the first time””it was awesome. It clung to a brick wall at eye level. I said, “Hello,” and it turned its bulbous head and looked at me. When I moved it followed me with its eyes. It's intelligent! There were many beautiful birds and trees I'd never seen before, like the giant Catabas that line the twin paths leading to the Governor's Palace (the royal governor, since it's 1770).

    The sheep ran away from me when I scaled the fence

    On top of the Governor's Palace (Leon's windswept hair)

    Cupola of same

    The coolest thing there: twisting ladder

    There's supposed to be a view, but now the trees have grown over and obscured it... see the little lamppost?

    Think Herman Hertzberger

    A butterfly on Leon's sleeve... papillon

    The York River

    Along Colonial Parkway, built by the WPA with no lines and exposed aggregate


    The faux plantation; a unicorn?

    Leon makes nice with the modernists

    There can be no bars within 5 miles of the historic area, so William & Mary students hang out at "Delis" instead

    Local flare

    It's a self-portrait. See the shadow?

    I've been confronted recently by classmates and teachers who figured out my true identity, whatever that means. This blog is truer than most of my waking life. Savanna is my middle name, you see. Anyway a few people have been reading the blog for a long time and like it””thank you! I like you. One lovely lady has a blog of her own:

    I take the time to write this blog because it helps me organize my thoughts. And I hope you learn something about Yale from those thoughts, as such is the ostensible purpose of the schoolblog project. Patrick Marckesano, a friend from Cal (= berkeley) worked on this site and asked me to do a blog. That's why I started. Now I'm just into it. It's fun.

    Ciao! (I had dinner with Massimiliano Fuksas. He's Italian... sort-of.)



    • hah hah this is so funny

      I love blogs, reads as a nice tapestry of one's life. You can see life through someone else's eyes even if you can't understand it. Cool job sav.

      Sep 27, 05 8:38 pm

      I was fortunate to be invited to a trip to South Africa last year, where we spent a night at a recreated historical Zulu village. It was a tiny village and our group was the only guest at a low time of the South African tourist season, so we got to know some of the upper level staff at the place. I learned that one of the directors there had been sent on a trip to Colonial Williamsburg to learn about making historical tourist villages. That's interesting in light of what you're talking about above - suppressing the evil side of the town's history, etc...

      Sep 28, 05 12:30 am
      brian buchalski

      those cows look fake. they should get one of those damien hirst deals where he saws one in half and puts it in a glass tank...that would be more fun.

      Sep 28, 05 10:12 am

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