A wall can tell so may stories. All the scars, knocks and scrapes tells of a wider story. It’s not just architectural history of a building I’m interested in. It’s what created the scars. The low lying stories of the people who lived and worked in them. Their aspirations, the care, lack of care, successes and failures. All of this is behind the scrapes and scratches we see now. I walked around a village in Suffolk early one morning, stumbling across all the modifications and photographing them.
In just a small area I saw the re-use and change of use; the extensions, past extensions, lost verandas, filled in windows (tax avoidance) and doors. The decay, restoration, and failed projects. They show us aspirations, successful businesses, and the decline of them.
There were the bits of older walls from somewhere else, cut and fitted into another. People had been inventive, solving problems, and being creative. Cost-cutting. The joining of smaller cottages to create a single larger building, converting small poorer abodes into something worthy of the “great and the good.”
I’m not talking about ruins and monuments here, but actual buildings where people live and work. What’s fascinating is, we don’t cover this up; we like the story on show, even the graffiti, names, initials and dates. There are the buildings with the stuccoed and the plastered walls that can cover all this up, but on the whole, we leave these scars for all to see. We are more likely to cover up the blemishes on the inside.
The scars become part of the building, its patina, shapes, forms and patterns. After a while they become the “character of the building” and have to stay.
When you look at an older building, you don’t see the original design and purpose. You see what’s left after centuries of change and adaption. It’s often described as a palimpsest, which for some reason, is a word I don’t like. In fact, sometimes, when a building has been reconstructed, made to look like it was when first built, people don’t like it. They complain, “it looks too new”.
I also blog – I Take Photographs of Walls.