Thursday, July 18, 2013

Urban Palimpsest

Early this morning my friend and I were walking in downtown Asheville when we saw a construction site where an old building had been torn down.  We were on Church Street, a street composed of mainly churches plus a few old office buildings, and now here was a hole like a missing tooth between a large brick building and an alley.  We walked into the alley to get a better look of the site and there on the wall of the old building was a ghostly palimpsest of what looks like a small church.  Graffiti artists had painted white inside of the outlines of the old windows as well as alongside the wall-like demarcations of an older building, accentuating the old voussoirs above the windows and clarifying the outlines .

We finished our walk, and then I got in my car and drive to the site to do some drawing.  This second drawing, done with watercolors and white gouache plus a few pen touches comes a little closer to what it looks like.  There's a low brick wall all along the open side of the building site, and you can see it in the foreground of the drawing.  We imagined that  an early church had been built on the site (research told us this might have been around 1840, when the first churches were built on Church Street) with no other building next to it (currently this block has buildings built with common walls),  Then at some point the larger building with the stepped roofline was built right up against the little church, blocking the windows. We plan to look at some Sanborn insurance maps at the library and see if we can learn the succession of buildings on the street and how this little building left an imprint on the wall of the bigger building next to it.

Meanwhile this temporary installation is a not-to-be-missed sight in Asheville.

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