Saturday, August 11, 2007

Ivy-Covered Walls:

Almost twenty years ago, the university in our town built a large parking garage that looked like a boxy trellis. It had three levels for cars, and its walls, six feet up and above, became see-through wire cages. I thought it looked awful, although some will disagree. I asked a grad student in architecture about it, and he said, "You wait, it's going to be beautiful. Ivy will grow up those walls, and the whole building will be hidden by green vines.” In fact, it WAS a trellis, you see.

But the ivy never came. It was always trimmed back by the university's gardeners. The parking garage had become a pawn in a war unknown to its architects. Women at this time were speaking out against the tyranny of the dark night. They wanted to feel as free as men to walk dark streets and passageways, no more attacks, assaults, date-rapes, acquaintance-rapes or just plan rapes. Ivy would turn the interior of that garage into a brooding, enclosed nightspace. Cutting the ivy down left the garage, which could feel spooky and deserted at night, more open to the stars, the moon, and nearby night lights. The university took many steps to become a safer place, and cutting this ivy appeared to be part of those efforts. Although I must say, it was not easy to see how keeping the ivy down would make it easier to spot a thug, or stop an incident.

But today the ivy's growing. In some places it's twenty feet up the garage's walls, and by 2012, I think the architect's vision will be complete. The campaign to Take Back the Night continues, but it has shifted to slightly different issues. No one, a far as I know, is complaining about the ivy, and it looks pretty nice.

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