Friday, September 05, 2008

Long time, no post!

A year's gone by since I've last updated this blog, and after some (fortunate) persuasion by several people, I've finally convinced myself that it's high time to continue posting here. I don't want to include too much personal stuff on this blog, but life's been a little crazy for the past eleven months, and certainly quite busy. College, friends, and internet culture kind of takes over, and all of a sudden, you find you aren't updating things like you used to! Anyway, hopefully that's over, and I can continue to post photographs and information here, celebrating Michigan's architecture.

After a long, eventful summer of working with the photographs at the U of M Clements Library, I'm back in Marquette, for my junior year at Northern Michigan University. I'm taking four art classes this semester, including the dreaded AD 303 Individual Art Review -- wait, I suppose I should backtrack a little, back to my work over the summer. Working at the Clements was, to put it simply, amazing. The project was financed by the Michigan Photographic Historical Society and it was one of the best learning experiences I've ever had. My job was to reorganize the photography collection -- and it was a huge, but rewarding project.

The Clements Library's photograph collection is primarily comprised of American vernacular photography -- that is, photographs showing everyday life, family pictures, and city scenes -- as opposed to fine art photography. I had the opportunity to view all kinds of cartes de visite, matted photographs, cabinet cards, and, most interesting of all, photograph albums. Thanks to MiPHS member David Tinder, there are hundreds -- thousands -- of photographs of Michigan alone, and seeing those was particularly fascinating.

For example, I had no idea that Marquette suffered a major fire back in the mid-1800s. There were several views of the city, dating from, if I remember correctly, the 1870s, where the buildings downtown were built from wood -- and I learned soonafter that Marquette had burned. Replacing the destroyed wooden structures were stone buildings, many of which remain today.

In any case, the job was fascinating, rewarding, and very educational. If you're in the Ann Arbor area and interested in what the Clements Library does, I highly recommend stopping by. It's one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture on the University of Michigan's campus -- designed by Albert Kahn in 1922 in the Italian Renaissance style, it is a very graceful, ornate structure, inside and out.

So, here I am, now, in Marquette, living off-campus with my best friend Ashlee, in an apartment right across the street from Lake Superior. It's amazing -- no, incredibly awesome to be away from the dorms and away from all the hubbub and noise that is NMU. We're minutes away from downtown, seconds away from the lake, and a twenty-minute walk from campus.

I mentioned earlier AD 303 -- Individual Art Review -- the pass-or-fail class that determines whether or not you can continue being an art major. It's a serious-business course, and at the end of it all, you must have a prepared statement of intent and extensive portfolio that you show to various members of the Art and Design staff. It's a big deal. As far as that portfolio goes, I've got a general idea of what I want to do (and I'd better, because the first draft of that statement of intent is due next week!) -- unsurprisingly, it involves theaters, from both an artistic and preservationist standpoint.

I'll go into more detail in later posts, as my idea is developed and refined, but look for updates as the semester continues, and as I stress myself out into an unintelligible pile of goo!

Until then, enjoy a few views of our great state's architecture.

How about a Great Lakes lighthouse? Eagle Harbor's lighthouse, taken the first week of May, right after the Winter '08 semester had ended. It was still snowing in the Keweenaw Peninsula, much to the chagrin of my father and myself.

A pair of bad architectural additions on display in Cheboygan, back from April of this year. I'd like to have a word with whoever approved these designs...

Working our way downstate and earlier into the year, here's an abstract view of some clashing architecture: the white columns of the Jiffy Mix factory rise up above the brick fa├žades of downtown Chelsea.

I'll leave you with a night view of Houghton's Lode Theatre, taken during Michigan Tech's Winter Festival in February. As many people have told me, the interior of the theater building has been torn up and divided into several screens -- an unfortunate fate that many theaters have suffered. I'm motivating myself to finish my theater project and hopefully it will be completed soon. I've done the photography... and now it's time for the real work!

Over and out.


Unknown said...

What is the initial photo of? It's interesting to see a blog dedicated to Michigan Architecture, thanks for making the new posts!

I'm a small fan of some of the early state hospitals built in the late 1800s. Places like Clinton Valley / Pontiac State Hospital, Traverse City State Hospital, etc.

J. O'Brien said...

@joshdont - The first picture is of Marquette's old ore dock. It's one of the most recognizable landmarks in the Upper Peninsula, and hasn't been in use for a few decades. The city has a larger, working ore dock further on down the shore near Presque Isle, where freighters dock almost daily.

Glad you like the blog! I've heard some good things about the Traverse City State Hospital, I know I'd like to check it out sometime.

Unknown said...

Wow, that just did an excellent job of distracting me from school work for an hour. For having spent my entire life in Michigan, I'm really short on the history! Ore Dock image & video googling got me looking at transportation to/from Ore Docks, which then led me to a cute short video on the history of Michigan Central.

The posted image at the top is gorgeous, thanks for the information. ramble ramble.

Unknown said...

Did you take the photo of Houghton's Lode Theatre?