Yesterday I indulged myself in Barcelona chairs, wrought iron balconies and bamboo flooring. I do not currently live in the type of palace that sports such luxuries, but I was swimming deep within the pages of some of my favorite architecture magazines. I love design, the glories of the built environment all around us. The line of a well-constructed skirt can distract my attention. I have been known to stare at doorknobs. I even walk around downtown, scouting out well-appointed lobbies to admire.
While I appreciate a fine travertine marble and a shiny Art Deco elevator grille, I also worship rusting metal and fading paint. I revel in the downright silly. Seattle has an abundance of visual glories of all types, including some fabulous pink elephants bedecked in flashing neon. These playful pachyderms advertise car washes and serve as useful landmarks when giving directions. There is a park nearby that sports an enormous cowboy hat and boot. I haven’t been, but that is a matter of transit, not interest. I shall make the pilgrimage. Highway 99 has miles and miles of old motels and businesses with silly signs from the Fifties. I adore them all.
I am glad to find these tacky treasures in Washington, because I spent some time in Minnesota, the frozen homeland of kitsch. I loved it. The Jolly Green Giant stands tall in Blue Earth, the water tower in Rochester is a giant corn cob and Austin, Minnesota, is the home of Spam. Spam is kitschy all by itself, but Austin has a museum devoted solely to the stuff. They sell Spam beach balls, Spam lunchboxes. They even have little wire slicers so that you can take your chunk of meat product out of the can and neatly divide it into individual pieces of processed pork. Voila–performance art!
Architects have filled the city with masterpieces. Designer dresses stroll on by. Art engulfs the landscape, spreading out around me as I walk. There are no gallery tags to read, no guidebooks to study. I’m trying to take it all in. Won’t you join me?
Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
15. Take a walk around you, and find something to admire in the built environment. Is it a crumbling barn, a faded advertising poster? Tell someone else about it and spread the joy.