The material of any place we visit is a tapestry weaving together the natural and the artificial, the modern and the past. While we walk through these things in the present, they also reference the past or stimulate our own imaginations about what once was. What do they tell us?
A monument directly refers to past events. Often it explicitly recalls what happened and when. A monument is both inclusive and exclusive. While it cites an event that was of significance to the builders of the monument, it often expresses just one point of view on the matter. By citing one event, it excludes all other events that might have occurred in that place.
Sometimes buildings are seen as monuments, yet they are less specifically focused on an event. Rather they attest to lived experience: places of work, play and residence. Not a single point in time, buildings span a period. They express meaning through their architecture, that exposes both form and function. An architectural style might correlate to a culture.
Naming defines something as a place. By naming we give [an un-named] space some meaning, we elevate it from the commonality. The relationship between name and space can become complicated. Most of us have a place we call home, but the actual place each of us call home is different, yet it often means many of the same things: safety, comfort, security, love, family. Conversely, a single space might have several names. For example, in 1793 John Simcoe named an area on the northern coast of Lake Ontario York in honour of the Duke of York. In 1834 it was renamed Toronto, a name rooted in the Mohawk word Tkaranto, meaning “where there are trees standing in the water.” Each of these names sets a different context for how we might interpret the place: the British name sets a colonial context and erases the original history of the place. The Mohawk name restores the place’s connection to its indigenous past, and the previous inhabitants of the place, and their way of life.
As the modern recedes into the past, its material decays, and reverts back into the soil. Not all at once; some parts out-last the others and remain as remnants of the larger whole. A clue of what once was. The people that worked and lived there. Their goals, their troubles, their joys.