FAVORITE PLACES: In a Crowd
Poorna seeks to find a friend’s favorite place.
Favorite Places is a series of architectural conversations with people outside the field of architecture. This is an attempt to have meaningful discourse about the role architecture plays in one’s life when creating it isn’t on their mind.
A building my interviewee and I both like—the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence, Italy.
I began the first conversation with one clear goal in mind – what rules of good design could I glean off a friend’s description of his favorite place?
I chose to speak to a specific friend because his opinions of architecture, which as far as I knew, could be summed into “I hate modern buildings.” I thought that would equate to a clear fondness for one space over any other, but this impassioned dislike was not coupled with a distinct favorite. Our conversation was an arduous back and forth of dissecting what a favorite place was or meant to him. It was the first time I’d set out to formally interview someone. My notes were so frantic they turned into a little sketch of the conditions my interviewee described in passing while in search of a favorite place.
I asked what his favorite place was. He didn’t know.
[Poorna] What would be a place you would go back to? Is there a place you would never want to leave?
[friend] I like outdoor markets. One day in Amsterdam, I was wandering about by myself. It was a rainy day, close to Vondelpark, when I came across an outdoor market. The narrow street was filled with tents and people milling about. I spent the entire afternoon sampling meats and cheeses from various vendors.
[P] Do you think the crowd was important?
[f] Maybe. In Dublin there are only a few days a year when its sunny out. I went to Phoenix Park on one of those rare days, and it was packed! Everyone was out for lunch – it felt like the light had been restored in people’s eyes from a brief moment in the sun.
[P] Are all your favorite places outside, in crowds?
[P] So then is it really a place? Hmm.
[P] Do you think a place feeds off the energy of people?
[f] Yes, my most memorable experience is attending a music festival in a Sicilian coastal town. The place was stunning, the entire festival was hosted inside the cathedral and parts of the castle, but I usually don’t enjoy concerts by unfamiliar musicians. The festival was mostly in Italian, yet I felt like I understood the energy of the place just by seeing other people having the time of their lives. I don’t know if the buildings effected it, but it was beautiful. There were contemporary art installations in all these historic constructions. It was really cool.
[P] What made the place beautiful?
[f] I’m not sure, it was grand and old. I think I like that it took great efforts to build it and it will last for a very long time. I like Gothic buildings – the ornaments are like art added to a building. It must have taken a lot of thought.
[P] Is the thought what matters most?
[f] No, I think it’s that it took so much effort to build something so grand.
[P] Does it make a difference to you, if a place is comfortably designed?
(thank goodness, otherwise what am I doing in this program)
[P] Is there anything that makes a place more pleasant?
[f] I guess, I can appreciate when a place is well-thought-out. I like it when a place makes it easier to talk to strangers – like big communal tables in restaurants and open floor plans.
[P] So, you’re happiest in a place with many people?
[f] I think so. Yeah, those are always the best places.
[P] Do you think you have a favorite place?
[f] I don’t think I’ve been there yet.
We never came to a conclusive idea about his favorite place.
I think, in this first interview, I learned that a place is not necessarily spatial. Although, I must believe that the urban fabric in Amsterdam made that market spectacular, that the parks in Dublin wouldn’t exist if buildings didn’t define them, and that people congregate in places because someone thought to make it nicer for them to be there.
In the next interview, I will speak with Victoria from Brick & Mortar about her favorite place. Since moving in across from the school, she feels as though she notices buildings more because of her conversations with architecture students.