Ball State University (Gregory)

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    Begin the Begin

    Gregory Dowell
    Jan 13, '09 6:41 PM EST

    Anybody who knows the reference in the title is a friend of mine. It's back to school, again, but also for the last time. (Since I have not filled out a single application to pursue a PhD, it is surely the end...for now. There will probably come a time when I head back to school for my PhD in Anthropology.) But as it stands, the future is now. I am not going to rant about the situation that awaits, as the current environment is not something I can control. Things will happen and I'll manage the curveballs.

    The focus is now on completing my thesis project. I wrapped up the fall semester with the submission of my thesis proposal and now its time to resolve the proposal with an architectural design. For better or worse I did not spend one second during winter break thinking about thesis. Nope I spent two weeks in Peru and you can read about my Peruvian adventures right here. There are some good stories and photos, so please check it out.

    But looking back now, some of my experience in Peru relates (in a way, and not entirely) to my thesis proposal. Much of Cuzco is built upon the ruins of Quechuan buildings. Quite literally in fact. Large polished stones from over 500 years ago serve as the foundations of the city's contemporary buildings. I'm looking at incorporating ruins of buildings damaged by purposeful acts of violence into new architecture as means of preserving memory and identity. Its not exactly the same, but its really not all that different.

    I know exactly what I want to do. The only problem is finding a ruin/building/site that is both contemporary and domestic. There are gobs (now thats a word I should use more) of potential sites in Europe as well as around the globe, but because of the United States security and relatively peaceful past, the opportunities are few and far between. So it is now that I solicit you for possible buildings in the USA. I've expanded my definition to include acts of civil disobedience and riots. Name anything, it just may be what I'm looking for. I'm going to spend a few more days looking for the perfect site, but with the limited time frame (9 weeks) to complete my thesis project I may have to go abroad and choose one of those sites.

    That's it for now. I'll be back in a few days to update you on my search for the perfect ruins and my possible plans for summer.


    • vado retro

      its begin the beguine. lyrics by cole porter born in peru, indianastan.

      Jan 13, 09 10:56 pm  · 

      Can I ask why anthropology?
      Only because my original graduate degree was sort of a mix between history/anthropology and I am thinking about going back for another but in design.

      Jan 13, 09 11:07 pm  · 

      All that is true but Begin the Begin is REM's tongue-in-cheek title of the first song off Life's Rich Pageant.

      Jan 13, 09 11:11 pm  · 
      vado retro

      lifes rich pageant was recorded at john mellencamps studio. rem hung out in btown when i was there. a friend of mine was dating peter buck at the time. good times.

      Jan 14, 09 8:43 am  · 
      vado retro

      too bad we dint have camera phones then. of course you could see them for like two bucks.

      Jan 14, 09 8:43 am  · 

      I'll tell you why anthropology Nam and you can tell me why not anthropology. Or maybe there isn't a why not. Maybe we're on the same wavelength.

      Maybe I should start by being more specific and tell you that I'm really interested in archaeology and material culture. Which leads directly to cultural identity. I have a wild fascination with memory, identity, and culture. Furthermore I have a hard time separating my architecture from those three areas. For me they go hand in hand. Architecture may be the one thing that affects or plays a role in every other part of our life. I think a greater understanding of anthropology will only enhance my architectural understanding.

      So there you go.

      Jan 14, 09 11:54 am  · 

      I'm old enough that I interpreted the Beguine reference, too. Oy.

      Sounds like a great project, Gregory. I attended a lecture by Dell Upton recently, in which he described his research on civil rights monuments in southern US cities. His case study was a (Birmingham AL?) park holding a collection of monuments/public art pieces describing the struggles of African Americans over the course of the 20c, in the context of local politics, segregation, and advancement. Not a building program, of course, but similar in concept to what you may be describing for your thesis.

      As for the PhD: go for it (when you're ready)! Best (insert embarrassing number here) years of my life. Do you belong to VAF (Vernacular Architecture Forum)? Upton's one of the founders, and it's a great organization dedicated to precisely the kind of work you describe: the interrelationship of culture and the built environment, using archaeological, historical and other methodologies. Much work has been done by VAF'ers on rural agrarian buildings and landscapes, but more is being done on urban settings as well. You'd be a perfect fit, it sounds like.

      Great good luck to you...

      Jan 14, 09 1:24 pm  · 

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