||[Aug. 11th, 2003|04:20 pm]
The center hall of this building is a vast space of beautiful paneling, unbroken to the skylights above, double staircase climbing up four stories on either side. In the middle of this used to sit an enormous oval table, so large that moving it required 12 grown men. The table survived the terrible fire in 1992 that gutted the building, a hole burned through the center of it. One of the workers here on campus lovingly restored it so that no one would ever guess that it had ever suffered such damage. The table supported a great vase of white flowers, a beautiful and dramatic arrangement, and all of it looked very elegant.
I say used to because the new president decided that the elegance was offputting. The table has been removed, and in its place now is what looks like a rather nice living room that was inadvertently plunked down in the middle of an office building. Four comfy chairs on a throw rug, a coffee table with a vase of white silk flowers, a distant echo of the former centerpiece (and appearing to be cannibalized from it), a few magazines placed with careful casualness.
All designed to invite people to think about – but not follow through on – sitting down.
The space is much too open and exposed for comfortable lounging. Voices carry up all four flights of stairs. In the past week I have not seen a single rump meet seat.
Walking past it today got me thinking about the number of things we have in our lives that are designed for a use to which they are never put. Urns and vases and bowls decorate our homes simply by their existence; filling them with something would be silly. Some artists play with this concept, creating vases from which flowers would slump, urns incapable of holding liquid.
I think the potential appeals to us. There isn’t anything in this space but there might be. There is the edge of an idea, caught out of the corner of the mind’s eye, that is more beautiful than reality. There is tension there, and hope, and possibility.