I recently took a short trip to a series of amazing Native American settlement sites in south Colorado and Utah. Mesa Verde National Park is the more established, better known, site, located just outside of Cortez, Colorado. This is the location of the iconic cliff dwellings, dramatic masonry construction tucked under massive sandstone overhaning cliffs
Most of the smaller towns that I passed through on a recent road trip had their version of the local movie palace. And most were closed down along with the rest of the storefronts along the main street. The emptiness of middle America is remarkable and so sad. We all hear the statistics about the growth of the larger cities and the gradual emigration away from small towns. But something about the desolate marque of the old movie theatre strikes me as the most melancholy of the all the main street ghosts.
Chapels of the San Luis Valley
For many years, I have been taking trips to the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado. This area feels very different from either the Front Range or the Western Slope and is marked by tiny settlements and the vase expanse of the wide valley. Of particular interest to me are the simple chapels and churches, dotted across the landscape, some lovingly cared for, others abandoned.
I am not an advocate for building in a "style". Thinking of buildings as simply constructions that you can hang different style clothes on runs counter to my work as an architect. However, if you don't have an architect or don't want one, maybe the nineteenth century idea of pattern books is a good idea to help you avoid Style Abuse Disorder (SAD).
As I have talked about in a couple of recent posts on the flatness of the Midwest, a simple building standing in that relentlessly horizontal landscape is a powerful, singular moment. This is even more apparent when it is a church, rising upward to heaven, a determinedly vertical building contrasting the vast horizon.