“I am as you see me and I belong here.”
I was thinking about architecture the other day. Architectural theory played a big part in my dissertation on the experience of being in a place, as how can one have an experience of being in a place without having places, whether natural or built, in which to have one’s experience?
I love modern architecture, especially of the mid-20th century variety with its flat roofs and blank street faces opening to walls of glass and and inside-outside views to the rear. I was re-reading some passages in the book Thinking Architecture by the Swiss architect and architectural theorist Peter Zumthor, in which he quotes and openly credits the philosopher Martin Heidegger’s concepts of building, dwelling, gathering, place, and space. This was the “missing link” for me as I attempted to form connections between complex philosophical concepts, their realization in architecture, and the lived experience of those of us who dwell within built places.
In the brief quote referenced in the title of this post, Zumthor is speaking on behalf of a building, imagining how it sits and feels at home in its surroundings:
To me, the presence of certain buildings has something secret about it. They seem simply to be there.We do not pay any special attention to them. And yet it is virtually impossible to imagine the place where they stand without them…. They give the impression of being a self-evident part of their surroundings and they seem to be saying: “I am as you see me and I belong here.” (Zumthor, 2006, pp. 16-17)
I like this quiet statement of confidence and at-homeness. It is a seemingly simple yet consciously composed sense of presence, self-acceptance, complete and coherent in itself. “I am as you see me and I belong here.” To me this is the ideal, the essence, of being in a place. I strive to feel this way in my skin. To varying degrees, I feel it in my two homes, very different yet born from the same aesthetic sense. I can feel completely at home in either place while I am there. Sometimes I feel torn between the two places, which represent two quite different ways of being in the world. My heart belongs to the Pacific Northwest, but I have to say I appreciate having the option to go elsewhere when the winters get too dark, cold, and damp. It certainly is easier for me to go out the door at dawn to go running when the sun is shining and I have no worries about ice underfoot.
I belong here… but can a bi-platial person ever fully belong to either place? I wonder.