Friday, March 6, 2009

Honor's Abstraction: Patina of Place - Ethan Aiken

Patina of Place: In a description of the book, Patina of Place by Kingston Heath, the writer talks about a very important idea called “Cultural Weathering”. This idea looks at the way society can leave a “cultural imprint” on the landscape and the way that the environment influences the structures that are built on it (Project MUSE). In this specific unit summary, I will address the city of Athens in Greece and observe how the landscape affected the way that the people designed their structures and the way that their structures modified the environment. I will look at many different scales of objects, ranging from the chair to whole cities. Through observation of the differences in these scales, one can find characteristics that apply to all ranges of scales and cultures.

Subject: Foundations:

- Artifact – The Chair

- Nature: The chair is not a naturally occurring object in nature. This divergence from the natural path shows

- People: This artifact was very important to the people of this time period. We can see this through the elaborate designs and sturdiness of these pieces of furniture.

- Material: The chair, being a smaller item, was normally made out of cheaper natural materials such as wood and leather. A change in materials, such as using stone or marble, could show a difference in status to the people of town. The more rare the material was, the higher the status it reflected.

- Symbol: The chair symbolizes the leap from sitting on the ground to creating a special device that is used only to sit on. This shows the advancement from a primitive culture to a more civilized one.

- Space – The Forum

- Nature: This aspect is possibly the most important to the forum style. Since it is no more than an open space in a city, nature plays a large role in its creation. There was not much modification to the landscape in this building style and people adapted to whatever the land gave them to work with.

- People: The forum’s only purpose is for the people. It is a place for people to gather and engage with one another in socialization and commerce. It really has no other purpose that this.

- Material: The main materials that existed in the forum were found underneath the peoples’ feet. On top of the ground was a layer of stone, providing a defined boundary for the area.

- Symbol: The forum is symbolic for many reasons. The first and most obvious is that it represents a place for socialization with others of a like society. This is the place where the members of a town could gather to talk about the daily occurrences or events that took place. The second reason was that it was also the economic center of town. Since this was the place for people to gather, the merchants took advantage of this. You could find just about everything you needed to live comfortably in early civilizations in these areas. This area was also a gateway for people that may have traveled to a new area. They could go here to meet new people and learn about the community.

- Building – The Parthenon

- Nature: The designers of the Parthenon took advantage of the natural surroundings when they created this structure. It is at the highest point of the Acropolis and it can be seen throughout the town. In this way, it uses the natural world to proclaim the might of man.

- People: This people were very important to this building because it was created mostly to play to the “Delight” portion of the design triangle. The only function it served was as a temple and it was used only for that purpose.

- Material: The materials that are used in this building are all very strong and sturdy. The stone and marble show the “Firmness” of this building and the materials have certainly stood the test of time, surviving from then to the present.

- Symbol: The Parthenon symbolizes how far that humans as a people have advanced. This building serves no other purpose other than to provide a place of worship for the goddess Athena. Humanity has now reached the point in time where they can build these grand structures not for the use of their people, but mainly as a symbol of the goddess.

- Place - The Acropolis

- Nature: The Acropolis, which is built on top of a plateau, uses the environment to its advantage. This place is the highest spot in the town and it can be seen anywhere in the city. In this case, the natural environment added to the majesty of this site.

- People: This place was very important to the people of Greece, especially the ones that lived in Athens. This site was a place of pilgrimage and every so often, special ceremonies would be held in honor of the goddess.

- Material: The materials that make of this site are primarily stone and marble. Because stone is such a resilient material, the use of these materials reflects the immortality and everlasting symbol of power that the goddess is known for.

- Symbol: Every one of the structures at the Acropolis is amazing, but together they symbolize the might and building prowess of the people that designed and constructed them. The fact that there is more that one grand structure goes further to show their might as a people.

In the case of Athens, Greece, we see that people are still building with the environment instead of against it. There is an idea of opposition beginning to emerge, however. On the artifact scale, we begin to see a divergence from the previous styles of building with the established environments. We also still see the environment playing a role in the design process. In the cases of the Forum and Acropolis in Athens, we see that they are built around the existing environment and take advantage of natural occurrences.

"Project MUSE - Technology and Culture." Project MUSE. 2009. The John Hopkins University Press. 2 Mar 2009 .

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