Each day is a little bit of history

Another semester has come and passed without my name popping on RateMyProfessors.com.  I suppose that is a blessing, I’m not sure my fragile psyche could handle criticism from a group of entitled millennials (or something like that). It is now time to enjoy a bit of respite between the spring and summer semesters. Yes, because of my surplus of free time (that’s sarcasm folks), I have agreed to teach an architecture history class during the summer semester at UTC. This is the first time the course has been offered, so I’ve been given the freedom to develop the course as I see fit. This is a ton of work, but they make up for it by not paying well. All jokes aside, I am seriously beside myself with excitement over the opportunity to teach this class.

Somewhere on the planet Christopher Mead just got a cold shiver and the hair on the back of his neck has stood up. Professor Mead is the greatest architecture historian I have ever had the pleasure to meet. Unfortunately, I was not one of his great students. The issue was that his history of architecture course was offered at 8 a.m. at a time in life when my ability to function fully that early was severely impaired. If there was one course from college I could do over, it would be Professor Mead’s. The man knows his architecture, he is a compelling lecturer, and the subject matter is of great interest to me. It has been interesting to note that as I prepare my lectures I have vivid recollections of Mead lecturing on some subject matter, but there are a few gaps where I don’t recall him at all. These gaps, no doubt, are the result of falling asleep in class back in the early 90’s. (In my defense, it was a large stadium classroom with comfortable, high-backed seating that was very dimly lit to accommodate the projectors. I’m getting sleepy just thinking about it.)

All of that is to say that a) please bear with me if I start dropping references to the Propylaea, Erechtheion, or an opisthodomos (can you tell that the Greeks are up this week?), and b) this looks to be a very busy summer, so I may take some time off from the blog. I don’t really have a plan for how often I will write- it may be every week, it may be once a month. I’ll keep you posted.  Now back to Chattanooga.

I had the great pleasure of hosting a group of out-of-town clients in our fair city this past week. Their city, like so many others in our country, was once a thriving place but one that suffered decline with the rise of post-WWII suburbia. Some of the challenges they face are ones that we have overcome in the past- a dead river’s edge, large transportation elements that block downtown from the water, a major one-way street pair, a 9-5 downtown, and a communal lack of confidence. As a part of our ongoing work to bring their downtown back, I invited them to Chattanooga to see first-hand how our community overcame some of the challenges that they now face. I took them on a whirlwind tour of downtown, introduced them to some of our players and conveyed the familiar stories of our rebirth while highlighting the projects that are of greatest significance to them. From what I could see the group was genuinely impressed with what they saw and will hopefully take back some of the lessons and philosophies that worked so well for us.

As informative as (I hope) the trip was for them, it was also a great exercise for me. Having them in town, visiting the venerable places that transformed our city, and retelling the tales of our success was refreshing. Over the past few months I have been somewhat preoccupied with our deficiencies and missteps as it relates to the built environment- to be sure that list is long and ever-growing. However, hosting folks who have never been here, showing off what the community has accomplished in thirty years, and seeing the spaces through the eyes of our visitors gave me a fresh perspective. We have indeed done some awesome things. (Of course, I planned the tour to mitigate the visual impact of BWW, Applebee’s, the dreadful new lighting, the cut-rate new intersections on Broad Street, some poor building rehab’s, some buildings that need to be rehabbed, the dilapidated barge on the north shore, etc., etc.)

I am partial to the Nick Saban approach of immediately forgetting past successes and focusing on the things that can be improved. Life, however, is not college football (although I will sometimes argue that college football is life). I think its good to pause from time to time to look at the good that has been done in the city and to celebrate it. So, go look at all the cool the stuff that the community has accomplished…see it? Good. Now, let's go back to making history.

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