I am not what you would call a world-weary traveler. James and I tend to visit the same locations again and again, and I can count the times I’ve been out of the country on two hands – possibly one. And some of those have been on ships, so I don’t know that they really count. Can you immerse yourself in another country in a few hours of walking around?
However, looking back at the traveling I have done, I often wonder if I’m seeing the places I’m visiting as other travelers would see it. Or only as an architect would see it.
As much as architects photograph buildings, I think we tend to live our lives in more detail than most. And if you go back and look through our photos, architects will have a lot of detail shots most people wouldn’t take or wouldn’t notice.
When James was in London for work, his apartment could not have been better just short of being inside Buckingham Palace. Just off Fleet Street, you could walk out the door and go left to St. Paul’s and the Tower. Or turn right and head to Trafalgar Square, The National Gallery, and Westminster Abbey.
Naturally I came in for a quick visit. And yes, I got all of the requisite shots. The Tower. St. Paul’s. Buckingham Palace. However, what really caught my eye wasn’t the bigger pictures.
Instead, it was the inside of an ATM lobby.
That’s right. An ATM lobby.
Double volume space. Ornate columns. Wood coffered ceiling. Oval windows with carved wood trim. And incredibly detailed hand-thrown tile everywhere. Everywhere. Walls. Naves. Ceilings. Even the columns had tile applied. Absolutely stunning. How could that not catch my eye?
I even did this while touring the Hemingway House in Key West. Not a single photo of the exterior of the house. What I kept snapping shots of were the details. Bathroom tile. Ceiling medallions. Fireplace surrounds.
Photos taken at the Hemingway House in Key West.
After 20 years of moments like this, James is completely unfazed. I think it started on our first trip to Vegas when I made him stand on a hot sidewalk while I snapped photos of the naked steel structure being erected for the new Aria hotel.
For everyone else – bank employees, other tourists, locals – I probably look pretty odd. Why is this guy so interested in the lobby? Or so close to the bathroom tile? Or in the case of one friend, laying in the middle of the sidewalk in NY?
But for the other architects around me, they’ll know exactly what I’m doing because they’ve been there themselves. Yes, I’m enjoying touring the city. Yes, it is fun being in a new place. And yes, the buildings are really cool.
But at the end of the day, it’s all about the details. Even if the regular traveler doesn’t see it.