I'm not bräve, just naïve...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Here's a tough one: does James spend more time on his holidays, or planning his holidays? Time is passing so quickly. In less than six weeks time, I will be leaving the same, warm and gainful confines of my present employer. The quick mathematicians amognst you will have noted that that leaves two weeks until I return to Europe. So, what do you think I'm going to be doing with those two weeks? I'm going to Alabama and Louisiana (hehehehehe...)

On Saturday 26 August, I'll depart Montréal, travelling south to New York with my old friend, the Amtrak Adirondack. I'll connect directly to a Regional service to Washington DC, where I'll stay until Monday evening. During my first whistle-stop trip to D.C. we had no time to really see any of the capital's museums. I plan to immerse myself in the Smithsonian for a day or so before the next part of my trip begins. On Monday evening, I'll leave Washington DC on board Amtrak's Crescent. After travelling overnight through North and South Carolina and Georgia, I will arrive the next afternoon in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. From there I'm driving to the miniscule community of Newbern (population 231) to visit the world famous Rural Studio of Auburn University's School of Architecture.

I could not let this year in Canada pass without making a trip to the Rural Studio. For four or five years now, I have been in awe of the work that has been built in the small communities that surround Newbern and Greensboro, Alabama. Founded by the late Samuel Mockbee, each year the Rural Studio brings one year each from Auburn's undergraduate and postgraduate architecture courses to this remote corner of America's impoverished Black Belt. Rather than learning their profession through studio and lecture based classes, the Rural Studio's students learn their trade by the most honest means possible: practical experience. Each year the Studio builds four or five projects designed by the students themselves, often with miniscule budgets. The projects are frequently daring and employ untested techniques, but they are never anything but utterly delightful and utterly humble. The value of the Rural Studio is not to be found in the buildings that it produces, but in the questions it raises about the way architects are trained.

After a few days staying in Newbern, I'm getting in the car and beginning a 650km road trip to Opelousas, Louisiana for the annual South-West Louisiana Zydeco Festival that takes place over the Labor Day long weekend. Travelling via New Orleans, I return the car to Tuscaloosa on Tuesday 5 September, and begin the long train ride north towards New York, where I'll stop for two nights, and 'home' to Montréal.

Two days later, I will leave for England.

I hope you can join me... :)


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