The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, along with the Musée du Louvre in Paris, has organized an exhibit titled Antiquity Revived.  Nearly 150 artworks including paintings, sculptures, furniture and drawings, inspired by Classical Greece and Rome are currently on display at the Audrey Jones Beck Building in Houston.

Among the above mentioned drawings I found this:

The Dining Room at Kedleston Hall, by Robert Adam, Architect. (1728-1792).  Image by NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie.

The drawing in question was the design for the Dining Room at Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire, quintessential Adam:

The Dining Room at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire.  Robert Adam, Architect.  Image by NTPL/Nadia Mckenzie.

Upon seeing this, I had what can only be described as a "Surreal Moment".  Here it was, in all its pencil and watercolor glory, signed in beautiful cursive: Robert Adam, Architect.  Those of you who know me well can attest that Mr. Adam is one of my heroes.  Seeing one of his drawings this close and personal is my version of a celebrity encounter.  I was almost giddy, I had to stifle a giggle.  I quickly turned around to the person next to me, but stopped, remembering that I had attended the exhibit by myself.  There was no one to tell, no one that would "get it".  I had to content myself until much later, when I finally discussed the matter with my friend the Ph. D at Architecture/Cosmopolis, who definitely "gets it".

Throughout my formative years in Architecture I have had many "Surreal Moments", and unlike this last encounter and fortunately for me, I have been able to share them with some very special people who  absolutely "get it".

Here are some of my favorite:

The Grand Canal in Winter.  Chateau du Versailles, France.

The South Parterre in winter.  Chateau du Versailles, France.

I was 9 when I realized I wanted to be an architect.  My parents had gone to Paris and brought me several books about the art and architecture of the city.  One book in particular caught my attention, it was a guide to the Palace of Versailles.  I fantasized so much about visiting the place that when I actually did (11 years later), it felt like I had already been there.  At that moment my life in Architecture had come full circle.

Ah, Rome...Where do I begin?  
Seeing the Pantheon for the first time.  We were jet-lagged but didn't care, all we wanted was to find the Pantheon.  We ran down the street and saw the round shadow reflected on the facade of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, we knew we had arrived.  I hugged one of the columns, yes I hugged it, as though it was a person.

Finally finding the Tempietto, then years later taking my (future) husband to see it.

Admiring Rome from the Gianicolo...

Then there are the moments that are not just surreal, they are Mythical...When I was child my father used to put me to sleep by telling me stories, only the stories where not fairy tales, but passages of ancient history and Greek and Roman myths:

The Gate of the Lions.  Ancient Citadel of Agamemnon.  Mycenae, Greece.
All of these "Surreal Moments" are not just happy memories, but a catalog of inspiration that informs my work one way or another, sometimes making appearances in the least likely of places - see the boulders and corbels in the fireplaces below:

Residence in Colorado.  Nadia Palacios Lauterbach for Curtis and Windham Architects, Inc.
Image courtesy of Curtis and Windham Architects, Inc.

Residence in Colorado.  Nadia Palacios Lauterbach for Curtis and Windham Architects, Inc.
Image courtesy of Curtis and Windham Architects, Inc.

A touch of The Iliad in the Wild West I suppose.

Have you had a "Surreal Moment" that you'd like to share?  Do you also "get it"?

All images by NPL unless noted otherwise.



Guillermo J. Alfaro said...

Unfortunately, I have yet to have a surreal moment. The closest I came was a night in Venice, close to San Marco, facing Sansovino's library. I think it had something to do with the dim, fog-like lighting. It felt like a scene from a movie.

Dear Polia said...

That counts.

Aristaeus' Aprentice said...

I'm an engineer but I think I can understand you. I had my first "epiphany" during the first semester exam of physics at the Saint Petersburg Academy of Forestry, after that glorius day physics became a piece of cake for me. And talking about Saint Petersburg, it is a place I recomend you to visit because in Saint Petersburg there are places that I'm very sure that you'll enjoy.

pranogajec said...

Not having had the ability to travel as much as I'd like (yet), many of those such moments have come when reading. Maybe not quite as emotionally intense, but still revealing. I really should start to keep a commonplace journal to record those moments...

Dear Polia said...

Pranogajec you should! And I would love to read it!

Jennifer said...

What Rome is to you, Paris is to me. :) J'adore la France... I always dream of returning, of living there (someday, perhaps)...

A surreal moment I had in recent years was my first trip to Ellis Island. I stood in the Great Hall, closed my eyes, and I could just feel the spirit of all the immigrants who passed through that place. I was so moved that I actually wept.

Anonymous said...

my childhood inspiration book wasn't versailles but the white house. i joined a bookofthemonth club just to get this coffee table edition of the white house. i still have, 40 years later. i studied the floor plans over and over and really was upset there were no pictures of the third floor.
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