31 May 2006

new eyes

one of the most wonderful things about traveling through the world with cosmo, is that i begin to see the world through his fresh and curious eyes, rather than my own jaded world view. for instance, this weekend we went to visit someone in a wealthy suburban enclave of dallas. these folks live in what i would call a mcMansion. its a new gated community, their property sits alongside a man-made lake. the place is huge and sprawling, they have a pool etc.
normally, upon visiting such a place, my mind would be filled with judgmental thoughts and outrage at the conspicuous consumption, and disdain for their glaring lack of taste.

but i had cosmo with me.

i tried to view the environment through his sensibilities. there was a marble floor in the entry way--it must have felt great on his feet--so smooth and cool. there was a big formal living room with no furniture (they had just moved in) and plush carpet. the ceilings were high, windows huge with satin drapery. the pool in the back had fountains and colored lights.
it was cleaned with sea salt rather than chlorine--the water felt so fresh and soft. the grass was bright green and fine.

while i may have felt totally out of my element in that space, cosmo was clearly having a ball. it can be very freeing to allow myself to focus fully on cosmo and his experience, and drop all of my self-righteous judgments or self-conscious nervousness.

new eyes CONTINUED (06/06/06)

on the other hand, i have to wonder...have i lost my critical edge? last night, valerie and i were talking about the library renovation. she was saying how disturbing she found the new environment to be. she said it feels like an airport, or some vacuous big box store, and she now hates to spend time there. i tried to imagine the new space, and evaluate it from my own training in architecture criticism. it occurred to me that i had not really thought about the renovation from that angle. when i first experienced the "information super hallway" i had cosmo with me, and he loved the shiny stainless steel and bright light stripes. there are lots of new and distinct surfaces and textures for him to explore with his feet and hands.

I was also thinking of the new circulation area in terms of convenience and functionality. some things worked decidedly better (the little cubicles behind the half wall behind the front counter are a perfect place to nurse, or express milk, and still remain tuned-in to what's happening at the desk) while other things are worse (the kitchen area is too far from the desk, and the desk itself is too narrow for everyday transactions such as check-ins and checkouts...).
what has happened to me? have i become just another ordinary consumer of architecture? someone who evaluates a space based on whether or not it is entertaining for my child, or functional for my daily work?

then again...perhaps delight and practicality are perfectly acceptable criteria for judging a building. still though, valerie's comments tug at my brain. what is the overall vibe of the place, and what kind of message is being transmitted about what a library is, and about what one does in a library? these too are important questions.

while it is nice to be able to refrain from negative judgment from time to time, i want to remain critical. mcMansions are tacky, and furthermore, they are sided in stucco coated styrofoam panels-and ten years from now, when the stucco begins to wear off, chunks of those once fancy houses will begin to peel away from the flimsy particle board structure. those emerald green, meticulously manicured yards will be trailed with little white styrofoam beads, floating and swirling-making fluffy white eddies and pools in the cul-de-sacs...

i bet cosmo would like it.

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