Monday, November 10, 2008

The Exotic in Normal

Perhaps because I was born in the era when many were being built, I never cared much for Memphis' modernist buildings. They were the normal, while the strange were the older, traditionalist buildings I might see in my rare trips downtown and less rare trips to midtown.

But time has subverted and replaced the norm, and I've come to love what I can see now as the historical exoticism in buildings that looked so boring to me as a kid.

Like the Normal Masonic Lodge.

Normal Masonic Lodge

A simple modernist building overall, it has a nice horizontal tile-inlayed plane on its second floor, horizontal concrete borders around its windows, a concrete Masonic icon and most interestingly, these short and stout columns

Columns of Normal Masonic Lodge

which remind me of Botero. It's like the builders were afraid to give up traditionalism and settled on these as a lifeline. A hesitant traditional touch that is weirder than anything modern they could have added.

Unfortunately, while I appreciate how its landscaping evokes the building's era in its rigid untouched normalcy, it also taints the building's exoticism.

Normal Masonic Lodge

While architectural styles have changed much, suburban-style berm and bush landscaping style hasn't. We risk overlooking the special in the building due to the sameness of the lawn.

And it is a risk, because the coming westward expansion of the University of Memphis will threaten even special buildings. A building mistakenly branded as insignificant by a berm doesn't stand a chance.

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