I love the complexity and juxtapositions of urban spaces. They are crowded, often teeming with tourists, business people, and very often, the down and out. Downtowns are an amalgam of old and new, history and current events, a place where wealth and poverty rub shoulders.
I’ve noticed this in my hometown, in big cities like San Francisco, New York City, Chicago…and I saw it again today in downtown Nashville, TN. Music City. Downtowns have their own personality. Some are all about food, some all about architecture, and some, like Nashville, are all about music. Live music poured from bars and restaurants…even before noon. Guitars and banjos were prevalent, and street performers were also in evidence. There were the requisite bars on every corner and tucked into alleys and happy hour seemed to start early on this warm Friday afternoon.
And today I was especially tuned in to the contrast between the old and new. New (ish) restaurant chains occupied historic buildings…and springing up in the background were shiny, reflective, skyscrapers.
And in some instances, the new buildings seemed to emerge from the top of the shorter, older ones. Almost like they were grafted on, breathing new life into an older, more classic and established host. (Isn’t that how it works with fruit trees?)
And while taking a photo of the Ryman Auditorium, I noticed that the more interesting shot was the reflection of the auditorium in the facade of the glass of the building across the street. A reflection of the past in the shine of the present? A mirror of the interconnections of history and current events?
There is something monumental about this juxtaposition of the past and the present, the intermingling of history with life today. The present keeps the past alive and relevant…the past keeps the present grounded and forward thinking as it reminds us all to learn from history.
And then there is the river…the powerful force that gives us energy and life, and if we are not careful, takes both away. Downtowns always seem to be close to water too. Maybe water is the true monument.