Marcel Proust took one of the most famous bites in the world, gnashing into a delectable madeleine, and thus triggered Remembrances of Things Past. Last night I experienced a similar deja vu, though, being an architect rather than a foodie, my memories were tripped by a glazed tile floor.
I was at Harvard’s Memorial Chapel to hear Nicolas Kristof speak about how to save the world. I knew such an undertaking would require an empty bladder, so I descended into the men’s room before hand. I pushed open the door and confronted a tile floor; white with small blue squares, in a distinctive pattern I had seen before. Actually, a pattern I had drawn before, and supervised its installation in a house renovation in 1990; the very first commission of my solo firm.
The project included much more than an eccentric tile floor. There was a new kitchen, family room addition, study addition, wine cellar and extensive landscaping. The building and landscaping were so well integrated the house was written up in The Boston Globe. When finished, the original 1942 cottage had almost doubled in size and the entertainment-minded couple who lived there could sit 24 for dinner.
But turning a gracious per-war house into a 90’s showcase couldn’t stave off the wrecking ball that swings through Boston’s upscale suburbs like a pendulum of economic privilege. The house was demolished in the early 2000’s to make way for a 7,700 square foot, five bedroom, seven bath manse that presses against its .57 acre lot with the same discomfort as a rich cookie that bloats one’s stomach after a sumptuous meal.
Everything I created is gone. All that remains are the fragments of memory triggered by other spaces, other rooms.