The Eternal City—what better place to find answers to the question: Why do old places matter? Tom Mayes, a 2013 Rome Prize winner in Historic Preservation from the American Academy, is in Rome these days and is contributing a series of posts about his experiences and research. Join us for his periodic essays and add your thoughts to the discussion. You can also read more about his project in a recent interview at the American Academy in Rome.
Old places help us remember.
Like many people, my earliest memories are of places—a pasture on our old farm where I napped in the warm sun until a cow licked me, and the dining room of my grandfather’s house where we watched President Kennedy’s funeral cortège. Simply seeing a place again may bring back a flood of memories—whether it’s the Caffe Reggio in Greenwich Village, which I frequented in my 20s, or the Davidson College Library where I pored over architectural history books as a teenager. "Old buildings are like memories you can touch," the architect Mary DeNadai tells her granddaughter. It’s a succinct explanation of how old places—our homes, libraries, schools, barns, and parks—seem to hold and embody our memories.
Most people experience this connection between memory and place. The connection was acknowledged by John Ruskin, who wrote in The Lamp of Memory about architecture, "We may live without her, and worship without her, but we cannot remember without her." But how important are places to memory? Does preserving old places—and the memories they represent—matter? Do the individual and collective memories embodied in old places help people have better lives?... Read More →