Debi van Zyl


A little collection of things found on some recent walks. One of the walks was to one of my parents' burned down neighbors' houses. Charred scissors, and melted aluminum and glass formed little puddles in the ground and hardened into the most beautiful shapes. There is always beauty to be found in the ruins.

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On a side note, my parents' house which survived the Tea Fire in Nov'08 has been featured on radio, TV and in the newspapers for being fire resistant. While a lot of good luck and the favorable direction of the wind had a major hand in the house surviving, my parents also made some really good design decisions in constructing their new home that contributed to the house's ability to withstand the fire. See them here.

And now the fire is long gone and regrowth is underway. Homes are being rebuilt in every direction and people are moving on. But I think about it all the time. Perhaps if you had lost everything, that would be the only thing to do: move on. No questions remain; things are just gone. But with a house still standing amongst all these ruins, the idea of loss lingers. And haunts. It's hard to comprehend complete loss adjacent to something completely unscathed. There is not a lot of sense in this, but eerily, a lot of beauty.

The idea of architectural loss is certainly an interest of mine. In graduate school my architectural thesis project was based on the idea of loss; the idea that buildings have lifespans and that they are also subject to dying. I think I am continually fascinated by buildings dying... intentionally or just haphazardly. Neglect turns out to be beautiful and misuse results in surprising afterlives.
Debi van Zyl3 Comments