Urban Studies has gotten me thinking about not only cities, but also my everyday environment and interactions within and among structures, in a whole new light.
As an urban studies major, with concentration in urban society and social change, I am more interested in the people within cities, as opposed to infrastructures and edifices. I am currently taking URBANST 115: Archaeological Aspects of Sustainability, taught by Professor Shanks, which focuses on the human components that foster sustainability, in past, present and future cities. With just three weeks into this class, my outlook on buildings and their relation to and relationships with people within cities has changed.
According to 20th century Australian archaeologist Gordon Childe, one of the key components of cities are monumental public architecture, which engender of wonder and spectacle. In a later class, talking about monumentality, Professor Shanks went on to talk about monuments, a key characteristic of cities. This architecture is more than its edifices. It has an effect on imagination and “the cultural imaginary”. With monuments elicits mystery, grandeur, myth and attraction.
Professor Shanks used the example of Stanford campus, during one lecture, to demonstrate the history and presence of this unviersity’s architecture. Take the Masoleum, for instance, within which the remnants of Leland Stanford Jr., along with his parents Jane and Leland, rest. The sphinxes in front of the Masoleum were a deliberate Egyptian connection to death. In fact, the Stanfords set up the whole university the memory of Leland Stanford Junior.
As Halloween approaches, Stanford students plan to carry on the Halloween tradition of dancing outside the Mausoleum among the sphinxes, strobe lights and the sea of fellow students, basically dancing within armsreach of the Stanfords’ gravesite. Last year, leading up to the 2010 Masoleum party, bro tanks with the insignia “Party With Leland” sold to students. Now, what would Leland and Jane Stanford think about this tradition? Disrespect or tribute? Arguably both. Has it become more about raging, and less about remembering? Not necessarily.
Campus tours, word of mouth, and Stanford classes, such as URBANST 115, mention of how this academically, athletically, and visually impressive institution came to be. Through these various means of communication and ecuation, Leland Stanford Jr.’s legacy lives on. Arguably, these “Party with Leland” tanks, pay tribute to his memory at once. This bro tank encompasses current college culture and the Stanfords’ intentions behind the university’s creation – a celebration of Leland Stanford Junior’s life. On Halloween, year after year, students dance to the DJ’s dubstep and hip hop beats, while remembering they are among the Stanfords’ spirits, who built this university for their son who met a premature death. Rage, Remember, Repeat.
Though nicknamed “The Farm,” Stanford is the largest university in the country and the second largest in the world. I mean, it even has two zip codes.Rather than a rural, I view Stanford campus as a city, which is often called “The Stanford Bubble.”
Through URBANST 115, I have acquired a deeper understanding my immediate surroundings and traditions here on campus. This has given me a critical eye with which to view the rest of the world, cities, edifices and infrastructures I encounter.