BAC goes to Greece!

BAC Faculty member, Jaime Wilson, instructor of the Historic Preservation and Theories class, and several BAC students spent the week of Spring Break in Greece this past March. One student, James Golden, had the opportunity to go to share with us some of his thoughts, impressions, and overall sense of his experience of this amazing trip through ancient Greece.

Have you traveled internationally before? Where?

When I was really young I lived in Germany with my parents-both of whom were in the service. I only remember bits and pieces of it though. This was my first time in 20+ years and it was definitely an experience.

What was your initial reaction to Greece?

While I knew it was a mountainous region that’s been inhabited for thousands of years, I was really shocked by not only the mountains being everywhere, cutting through the clouds in places less than 20 miles away, but also by the integration of the ruins into everyday life. Living in the US where there everything is so new (when compared to structures being 2000+ years old in Greece) we never have to build around an ancient cemetery or building, and it was interesting to see a culture where they build around it, through it, preserve it, and integrate the multiple layers of history into the current city. I also loved how even the sidewalks were paved with marble-it reminded me of Ruskin’s emphasis of using local materials for construction.

How did this trip affect your perspective on design?

We often get so caught up in how “advanced” we are, when we create such-for a lack of a better term- ‘disposable architecture’, buildings that won’t last 200 years, let alone 2500, that I think there is a bit of a overestimation of how advanced we are with a underestimating of how advanced our ancestors were. While we’ve been able to create new materials and to stretch their limits, we’ve gotten away from some of the things that made their architecture so amazing, such as how they accounted for optical distortion when viewing the Parthenon from a distance. I don’t know anyone that would do that today. I’m also fascinated by the fact that they built something that has been visited by a who’s who list of people in history-from great conquerors to authors, painters, philosophers to political visionaries who changed the world. We design in such a small bubble, often little farther than our property lines, we forget how our designs can touch people generations away.

How has the trip affected you professionally?

It was great to be able to learn from some of my peers. We all brought something different to the table while on the trip and we all took something different away from it. Viewing the different sites that have been left in different stages of preservation and then discussing what should be done with them has really emphasized how difficult it is to get a single vision on how to preserve relics from the past. Just because we have different views does not make any single vision wrong or right, it is in the compromises between us that a lasting solution will be found. While I don’t think anything I’ll build will last the ages like some of the structures in Greece, looking at how the ancients infused their civic structures with symbolism, allowing them to illustrate and to educate the masses, I think that will have a lingering impact-finding ways to tell a story in your design, no matter how subtle.

Tell me about an example of a memorable sight or experience that you had in Greece?

I think my most memorable sight was being on top of the wall of the keep on the Acrocorinth. Almost 2000 feet above sea level, there was such a fantastic view and incredible feeling up there. It was very humbling. The realization that people had taken the time to build these massive fortifications up there with teams of oxen, bare hands, and simple tools and knowing that it was a fortress, that people had fought and died there for thousands of years, perhaps on such a beautiful warm, clear day with so little wind like the one we visited on, it was just incredible.

How has this trip affected your personally?

I’ve been planning on traveling internationally for years, and this trip has really struck home that I’ve been waiting for too long and I can’t wait to go back overseas. The trip was very helpful for introspection as it gave me something to compare with. People overseas live at such a slower pace than we do here. It is not that their lives are better than ours, but they give themselves time to enjoy it. They take time off from work to vacation. They have big meals that take hours with family and friends. The world is a beautiful place, we should take time to enjoy it with those around us.

Take a minute and view James' photostream here: