Reflections

Space to Reflect: The 57th Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service at Washington National Cathedral

Posted on: January 25th, 2013 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

This post, written by National Trust Executive Vice President and Chief Preservation Officer David J. Brown, originally appeared on SavingPlaces.org.

Outside Washington National Cathedral the morning of the 57th Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service. Credit: NewsHour, Flickr
Outside Washington National Cathedral the morning of the 57th Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service.

Every four years, when the country gathers to inaugurate a president, some of the nation’s most historic buildings take center stage. From the Benjamin Latrobe-designed St. John’s Church where the First Family attends a morning service, to the White House where the President meets with his successor or the leaders of Congress, to the U.S. Capitol where the Chief Executive takes the oath of office under a magnificent dome largely completed during the darkest days of the Civil War -- our nation’s peaceful transfer of power occurs in and around stately buildings that are cherished witnesses to history.

And the inauguration ceremonies end the following morning at yet another historic building -- Washington National Cathedral -- where the nation’s secular and religious leaders gather for the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service.... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

My Preservation Resolution: Build the Movement in 2013

Posted on: January 4th, 2013 by Priya Chhaya 2 Comments

 

Shutterbug series at Central Terminal, Buffalo, NY. Credit: National Trust for Historic Preservation
Local preservationists at Buffalo's Central Terminal.

Observation: This is my fourth year putting pen to paper to map out my annual goals (see 2010, 2011, and 2012), and I’ve noticed that as the years go by, my list gets less specific.

Look at last year’s resolution, for example:

My 2012 Preservation Resolution is to not back down, to be inventive, to be engaged, and to look outside every box to find workable solutions in a challenging environment. For 2012 I vow to make connections and find tools that will allow preservationists to be all that they can be -- to turn opportunity into something tangible.

It could be that my resolutions are increasingly aspirational, and thus a little broader. But to look at it another way, my resolutions increasingly commit me to taking a stand, to changing minds and changing hearts -- not just with one action, but with a whole year of actions, one at a time.... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya is Associate Manager for Online Content, Preservation Resources at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A public historian at heart, she sees history wherever she goes and believes that it is an important part of the American identity.

[Slideshow] Remembering Pearl Harbor: A Personal Reflection

Posted on: December 7th, 2012 by Emily Potter 1 Comment

 


USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

As a writer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, I often get to talk with local preservationists and hear about their thoughts, memories, and feelings on places they love. I enjoy telling their stories and getting to feel like a part of something bigger. Today, I have my own story to share.

Three weeks ago, I visited Pearl Harbor, one of our country’s most poignant historic places and one that we are remembering and honoring today.... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Emily Potter

Emily Potter is a copywriter at the National Trust. She enjoys writing about places of all kinds, the stories that make them special, and the people who love them enough to save them.

Putting the Puzzle Together: Reflections on Travel in Seattle

Posted on: November 21st, 2012 by Priya Chhaya 1 Comment

 


Seen on the Seattle Underground tour.

A metaphor I often use when talking about the past is that of a puzzle. Getting to know the whole picture of place means fitting together a number of disparate pieces that when snapped together give you a single picture -- a snapshot in time that is one in a series that make up the past.

I also approach visiting new cities through this lens. A few weeks ago as a prelude to my visit to Spokane for the National Preservation Conference, I went to Seattle to visit with some friends and family. What I ended up doing was not just visiting to a popular tourist destination but also getting a sense of the place itself.

I started, in a sense, with the history. On the recommendation of many people, I took the Seattle Underground tour where I gained a sense of a city that changed after a disastrous fire. Following the fire, the city was raised about 15 feet, creating subterranean passages with skylights that filtered in light from the sidewalk above. Piece 1.


Exhibit at the Chihuly Gardens and Glass Exhibition.

Pushing forward in time, I spent a few hours at Seattle Center, home of the 1962 World's Fair. I took the obligatory ride up the Space Needle where, like at any high point in a city, I gained a visual sense of the city’s geography -- water and land, ships and sky. Piece 2.

The cool thing about Seattle Center is that it is also a mecca of museums. Science. Art. Music. Pop culture. There is something here to feed all matter of interests. Luckily, for a few extra bucks, my ticket up the Space Needle also came with entry into the Chihuly Gardens and Glass exhibition next door. Now for those of you who aren't familiar with Dale Chihuly's work, it’s … phenomenal. His work with glass is indescribable -- the shapes, the colors -- and you can tell that he takes some of his inspiration from Washington state itself, from sea life to Native American baskets. Piece 3.


Seattle EMP Museum.

After a tour of the Icons of Science Fiction exhibition at the EMP Museum (designed by Frank Gehry) I stepped into even more recent history -- a narrative about the band Nirvana. Amidst their story is a broader examination of the DIY music movement. Using its extensive collection of sound samples, the exhibition talks about the role of Seattle and Washington State in the alternative music scene -- letting visitors listen to a wide array of predecessors to Nirvana, other bands that were contemporary to the band, and those that Nirvana influenced. Piece 4.

I took a walk around the neighborhood wandering through Pike Place Market, the Seattle Public Library, and Pioneer Square. The library alone intimated a city filled with creativity; the Market and Pioneer Square were fixtures of a community. Piece 5.

And finally, by staying in the suburbs I got an idea of the role Microsoft and Boeing play in the region’s economy. Seeing the planes being put together -- wing, engine, tail, body -- provided one more example about how pieces come together into a cohesive whole. Piece 6.

As I rode the train to Spokane, I thought about the city I experienced and saw each of these six pieces came together into a single snapshot. As visitors to a city, our visions of what that place is and what's important in that space depends on the connections we forge. Being able to see the magic of Chihuly next to the vibrations of Smells Like Teen Spirit while smelling the fish and eating doughnuts in the market gave me a picture of a place that I won't forget. This was my Seattle.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya is Associate Manager for Online Content, Preservation Resources at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A public historian at heart, she sees history wherever she goes and believes that it is an important part of the American identity.

The Unexpected: A Few Words on Architecture and Imagination

Posted on: October 17th, 2012 by Priya Chhaya 1 Comment

 

Honeycombed, rounded edges. Craggy towers, insectile caverns, seamlessly beautiful. Straight boxed edges, clean lines, looking within from without.

Prompted, in part, by the ongoing discussions about Prentice Hospital in Chicago, I’ve been thinking about a few of my favorite buildings, trying to pinpoint exactly why I am drawn to particular structures over others.


Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia.

  1. Creativity. I love skylines of distinction, where buildings can be so in sync with the urban rhythm, yet unique and versatile. The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. The Seagram Building in New York City. The Disney Concert Hall in LA. The Guaranty Building in Buffalo, NY. Each of these buildings, some with longer histories than others, tells a story through their fluid lines, curves, facades, and stained glass.
  2. Imprints of lives long gone. Classical colonial plantations and vernacular architecture tells us of how people lived. Upstairs, downstairs, private and public. Stories of class struggle and enslavement. Narratives of freedom and revolution. As a historian, one of my favorite things to do is to “read” a building. What can we learn about the lives that inhabited this space? How did they live? What are the invisible boundaries that separated one group from another? What can we see and understand about the human experience at Monticello, Robie House, The Tenement Museum, slave cabins, sod houses, and igloos?
  3. Imagination. Buildings can invoke far-off lands or spark narratives of non-existing worlds on imagined planets -- where we could be in the future, far from the cookie-cutter and the monotonous. I see this vision in Prentice Hospital, or the contrast between the brutalist War Memorial Center section and newer sleek Santiago Calatrava design of the Milwaukee Art Museum. And, for a quick glimpse beyond our borders, I see it in the Taj Mahal and the ever awe-inducing Sagrada Familia. All of these buildings inspire -- both in their grandiosity and their expression.


The Santiago Calatrava-designed section of the Milwaukee Art Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

These buildings don’t have to be beautiful. What sets them apart is that they have their own vocabulary, their own sense of being, and their own narratives. More importantly, they are a spark for looking beyond -- outside boxes -- to encourage new heights, adventures, and innovations. And there is something galvanizing about seeing the magical and lofty in a human-made structure. They are settings for old histories and new stories. They are more than the expected.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya is Associate Manager for Online Content, Preservation Resources at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A public historian at heart, she sees history wherever she goes and believes that it is an important part of the American identity.