A few months ago our earth leakage blew. A bother of a thing to happen at any stage, but what made matters worse was the fact that it chose to blow on a Saturday morning. I had visions of exorbitant after-hours call out fees and sensibly called a local electrical firm to at least cut down on the travelling component of the bill. We were advised to call the electrician on call and about an hour later, Simon emerged, fresh-faced and looking barely old enough to have finished school. But Simon wasn’t the key-player in the story apart from fixing the earth leakage, which he duly did and very efficiently so I might add. Upon hearing the address of the call-out, his father decided to tag along and to his delight his memory served him correct and he found himself once again in a house he remembered from his teens.
I must be honest, I do not live in an architectural marvel, in the least. I will concede that it is rather unusual, in that it is built in the shape of a triangle. It therefore offers an array of odd angles and very few walls, relying rather on huge windows that absorb the stunning green valley views and floods the space with wonderful natural light. It has been modified through the years and certainly in my period of “ownership” been opened, to offer a more modern open-plan living solution. Yet, Mr Simon’s Dad, face lit up when he recalled visiting the house and the daughters who resided there. He forgot their names after all that time, but remembers meeting a wonderful redhead, who was a friend of the daughters, which he took out dancing and saw a few times.
The story, apart from being entertaining, got me thinking about the power of space and how it evokes memory. Pretty soon I found myself “touring” the home that I grew up in, in my mind. Visiting the many wonderful spaces it offered and the memories associated with them.
Very few forces has the power to recall. They are usually related to senses. A song that reminds you of your first love, a smell that reminds of the start of spring, a taste that reminds you of the ghastly concoctions your mother doctored you with as a child. But Architecture has that power on a sense level as well. It is the power of being and existing inside of that space. Moving through it, feeling it, seeing it and recalling the emotions you felt at the time. For Mr Simon’s Dad, the memory of Architecture reminded him of being young. My humble abode in all its imperfection took him back to the time when he experienced his youth, the excitement of having his whole life ahead of him and what that afforded him at the time. The wonderful memory of having a beautiful redhead on his arm on a balmy Durban evening, showing off with his dance moves.
Our power was restored, the bill wasn’t too bad and I was given a gift by Mr Simon’s Dad. The gift of the memory of architecture. I have started practicing this consciously on nights when sleep evades me. Instead of counting sheep, I have taken to touring the many wonderful spaces I have had the privilege of existing in throughout my life. I have revisited my Aunt’s old farmhouse on the banks of the mighty Vaal. I have re-experienced the smell of her wonderful cooking on the old AGA stove and the delight of the dishes swirling around on her lazy daisy on the huge old dining room table. I remember the feeling of being part of a family and the unspoken love and bond around that table. I have visited our Beach House in Jeffreys Bay, remembering the sting of sunburn, the inevitable sand on the cool tile floors and the smell of freshly caught fish braaing outside.
It’s a journey and it has only just begun. I am looking forward to my future travels.