Fresh ideas about design
I recently returned to my alma mater on what could be described as a yearly pilgrimage to the autumnal season-defining sport of gridiron and leatherheads. While football games are the unabashed impetus to a gathering of friends for the weekend, returning year after year provides a unique perspective on place over time. Increasingly I realize that this is a living place, changing in its meaning to me.
Over the course of five years I became an insider. “Welcome Home” was no longer an expression of splashy marketing on an admissions brochure. This was Home. Place as Home. To dwell and live in this place meant an intrinsic connection. I had my own predilection towards a quiet courtyard formed by the collision of the Basilica, Presbytery, Administration Building, and my own bias against the cracked concrete court between dormitories, affectionately dubbed “Mod Quad.” I would also guess that few visitors intentionally walk these pathways. As a matter of fact, since graduation, I haven’t either; which brings me to my realization that I stand now as an outsider in a place that I knew and know so well.
Places change over time; buildings come and go. People change. From my perspective as a returning alumna, I appreciate the adaptability of place. In particular, I celebrate how this place met my needs when a student, continues to provide meaning to fellow alumni and myself and functions as a repository of memory, a stimulus to community and always a welcome home. As designers, we create places for many people by studying the needs of the community. After revisiting a place I know well, I see a small example of both the effect of memory, identity and time on the meaning of place.
I challenge you to return to a place that you know well and maybe have not visited recently. How has it changed? How have you changed? And what does this place mean to you?
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