Home at Brook Hollow

It is amazing and reassuring how the infusion of energy and love can transform a simple space into a memorable place. My daughters spent the last week at Brook Hollow and left me with books arranged by how interesting they seemed, a blue wall and a purple couch. They also filled the house with the scent of garlic and chili and left me with a bit of “survival” leftovers. Coming home to music, hearing the spirit in their banter, and the tchotchkes wedged into the raked joints of the fireplace made Brook Hollow into Home for a few precious days.

I returned home today/tonight to a dark, quiet house, lit only by the light of the digital pictureframe with my daughter’s images. I just returned from a screening of “Artemisia” a film about the first woman admitted to the Florence Academy, the first woman commissioned to paint for the emerging class of patrons in Renaissance Italy. Every scene was a portrait, vivid colors, deep textures, impeccable compositions. In the film, Tucci the mentor shows Artemisia to see by rich descriptions of the world around her, the “void” as she called it before she could see the world through the eyes of her mentor’s words. Seeing is believing they say, I think this film makes a strong case for believing as seeing. So if I believe the energy my daughter’s invested in Brook Hollow, I can see a home emerging.

Before the film was a long meeting, filled with spirit, passion, commitment to ideals and experiences intended to enrich students who are years beyond their 4 year college degrees. Serious questions emerged about the future of education, about the value of the model that has served architectural education since it emerged from the studios of the master artist. Like Artemisia, the ideas proposed today have the potential to rock the foudation assumptions we take for granted… or maybe we really believe in them… or are reticent to consider change… probably a bit of all of these things. Following this passionate discussion, we considered names of people to ask for advice, to guide us. Glen was wise in asking for the broad range of points of view. Those who live in our profession, those who are steeped in our discipline, as well as those who know little about our inner professional dialogues. I offered the name of a poet I heard speak after the unspeakable happened to us at Virginia Tech. With a few carefully considered words, and backed by a passionate commitment to university, she lifted us up off our knees, acknowledged the pain we would carry all our lives, and then brought us forward, onto our feet and into a future. “We ARE” she said over and over, “WE ARE VIRGINIA TECH” she reminded us, and left us prepared to move forward, to take on the challenges, to be worthy of the gift of life…it was seriously impressive.

In technical universities like TAMU and VT we sometimes wonder what those artists among the engineers are doing, why we invest in them, what they contribute because they don’t get funded by NSF or NIH? But that afternoon in Lane Stadium, hearing the students begin calling the Hokie nation forward from the pain, I realized we couldn’t survive without poets. So be nice to them, take an artist to lunch, it might be strange to you today, but it might just save your university.

If you haven’t had a chance to hear these words by Nikki Giovanni, you can find them here

Take Good Care, Look after your friends and family
Mike

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