Pieces of Nostalgia: architecture of the invisible & humanity

by LJ Frank

A yellowed black and white photograph sat atop an end table that was situated next to a love seat in the living room. The photograph leaned against a small wood music box. On the other side of the photograph, Summer, 1962 was written. Inside the box was a pair of cufflinks, a more recently dated Etruscan ring and an Opal birthstone…. and an old violin lay on another table against a wet plaster wall…. memories from private moments.

The dwelling was once a home and now was just a house ready to be sold. I flicked a wall switch and the ceiling fan whirled silently above as images unfolded in my head. The screened in windows were open with the room inside breathing in the humid 94-degree heat that poured in from the outside with bells tolling hauntingly from a church down the street, a place of worship for a God no one had ever physically seen. It was in the process of closing and was once a sacred dwelling whose architecture served as a form of empowerment for the builders and magic for the parishioners, inspired by the cathedral of the imagination. Like much institutional architecture it served to reinforce an idea and a position of influence. It could have easily been a temple or synagogue. Sacred space is a psychological-spiritual conversation created by an architect.

Pieces of nostalgia disappear into the photograph like the invisibility of a wishful thought placed in a scrapbook of both actual and projected memories, cut, and affixed, cherished by the heart in search of tangible meaning and pleasure. For each prayer in a sacred place or kiss on the full desire of another’s lips in front of an altar are attempts to affirm the minute in which we live. Still, it passes by, passionate and compassionate…. as we become passersby.

It seems the more distant in time a memory of the fonder fleeting hours are more appreciated.  The dismal voices and times dissipate into meaninglessness if one cares to move forward. The body may jerk in recall at the more disturbing moments and yet, sighs with a smile at the thrill of the sweeter moments like as a child, visiting a corner bakery or the first comic book purchased at a local shop or holding hands with a loved one.  The sweetness is a longer list than the bitter with the architecture of space we live in giving depth to our existence while the design of our transportation affords texture to the colors of the passing landscape.  Our lives are woven with the architecture we encounter each day.

Gazing down at the photo I recalled the events of the day and what I was doing…. so many things taken for granted in an unsettled world. It doesn’t seem that long ago until I look in the mirror and the thick head of grey hair and the aging eyes of experience, dreams, and what ifs.

I made a few promises over the years and one of which was to separate from dreams but being rather ambitious I tried to cross over a few times to balance those dreams with the actual state of affairs.

And music stirred the soul more than film as the images and faces in the mind are only a thought away…. pieces of nostalgia in a world that seems too harsh and rude at times both in spirit and flesh.

Live long enough and one senses a desperation among those wishing to disembowel one’s imperfect world for selfish reasons and without asking for the opinions of others affected by their voices, designs, and actions.

And I have pondered whether our architecture can open up our minds, free us to imagine the improbable and invisible, or enslave, bind, and imprison us …. can our architecture affect honesty, respect, dignity, and self-worth and perhaps save humanity, transforming weapons of our wars into weapons of peace…. can we transform the motivation of material profit to the architecture of inspiring peaceful coexistence?

The faded photograph is now a memory…. of what was and what it presaged.