Thursday, August 23, 2012

Trailer Vernacular

Earlier this month, I joined the North Dakota Man Camp Project, a new collaborative initiative that archaeologically documents the housing complexities of the Bakken Oil Patch boom. The project was directed by William Caraher and Bret Weber who brought two complementary perspectives, archaeology and social work. It was an honor to also work with Richard Rothaus (esteemed Corinthian archaeologist and director of CRM firm in Minnesota), Aaron Barth (history graduate student at NDSU) and John Holmgren (my colleague in photography at Franklin and Marshall College). Collectively, we documented 16 man camps of varying type and interviewed 36 occupants. Although exploratory, the field season this August will produce some body of research that we hope to complete during the academic year. See press release here.

For now, wanted to share some images from my contribution as a vernacular architecture historian. I basically produced observational sketches of the urban and architectural character of the man camps. This was challenging and illuminating. Up till now, I had only documented immobile stone. Once married with the tabular data, the interviews, the kite photography and the ground photography, I hope that my drawings will assist the analysis of each man camp. The elevation above records  elements added to the trailer, such as the insulation or the plywood room extension. The plan below maps the ad hoc living space accretion outside the same RV. And the photo shows me doing those sketches (from the press release above)


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Klima Taxiarches Epigraphy

Taxiarches Church in Klima, Phocis has three interesting inscriptions that help us identify its position in the history of art and architecture. We took some quick photos (thanks to Miltos' telephoto lens) which we share here:

1. Building date stone (1812) carved on the keystone over the west entrance

2. Templon-screen date (1842) painted over the main door

3. Dedicatory inscription (1842) naming the founder (ktetor) Konstantin Makedonetes

Monday, August 20, 2012

Welcome to Klima

Welcome to the village of Klima near Lidoriki (Phocis, Greece). On the last day of our Lidoriki fieldwork, we chanced upon a jewel of a building, a beautifully preserved (but threatened) church dating to 1812 (note datestone on the keystone over entrance, left). The village Klima is almost deserted. Its single occupant is the amazon farmer Mrs Karachaliou (more on her later). Klima is an important piece in the settlement puzzle of the Lidoriki region. It was the mother village of Kallion, which was itself submerged under the Lake Mornos irrigation project. If our Greek field-school were to adopt a village, this would be it. In fact, we hope that next summer, our students will document the village church Taxiarches inside and out.

Taxiarches contains a painted chancel screen dating to 1842. Mrs Karachaliou has stabilized the roof stopping the water damage on the building and the enclosed arts. Like many such 19th-century jewels of vernacular architecture require urgent scholarly attention. Stylistically, the interior decoration is characterized by the tensions between the Byzantine and Renaissance traditions. Similarly, the architectural typology negotiates between local, national, and global.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Agora Photo Archive

I have returned from a productive summer field season and a rather neglected blog. One of my summer goals included closer looks in Greek archival collections: The American School of Classical Studies at Athens, the Gennadeion, The British School in Athens, and the Corinth Excavation Archives. James Herbst (Corinth Excavations Architect and Drawings Archivists) helped me conceptualize a project involving the 19th-century houses that American archaeologists tore down in the '30s at the Athenian Agora. As an urban excavation, the Athenian Agora had to purchase a number of properties in order to excavate below them. This necessary demolition has not been received positively by contemporary Athenians. Interestingly enough, those houses were carefully documented before demolition. In a paradoxical twist, the architectural and photographic record of the demolished houses constitute the best preserved record of pre-Modernist Athens. Inevitably, these houses would have been demolished by developers in the 1960s and 1970s and replaced with multi-story apartment blocks. In contrast to the developers, the archaeologists documented their deconstruction in painstaking detail.

Like Corinth's, the Athenian Agora's archives have been digitized and available to the public, see They are a great new resource for historians of photography and urbanism. Browsing through the photos, one notices glimpses of daily life. I cannot help to think of Roland Barthes "punctum" conceived soon after his mother's death, see, Camera Lucida (1980). My mother was raised in this neighborhood and  could easily be one of the children shown in the photos. Above, you see daily life in Areopagou Street photographed in 1937  [Image 1997.19.0002]. Beyond their obvious architectural information, these photos capture wonderful historical issues ranging from identity to politics. One of my favorite photos below, shows a family that has poked its heads to see the American photographer capture their home before demolition. On the right corner of the wall, a prominent stencil shows the hammer-and-sickle and the message "Vote Communist." A whole thesis could be written on this image. Masonry, closed shutters, political affiliation, the four women and the invisible photographer engage in a moment of indecision. [Image 1997.19.0146]
To see more photos of houses, see here.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States