A (Belated) Observation of a Mundane Landscape

Although the rain this weekend interfered with my ability to find a unique or interesting landscape to study, one that I thought would be interesting to use for this assignment was my apartment complex – Logan’s Square. I spend almost every day interacting with this environment somehow, yet I have never stopped to fully observe my surroundings before coming to this assignment. It was a nice break to pause and rediscover somewhere that has become so ordinary to me in the past few months.

I decided to observe my surroundings from the stairs right outside my front door, giving me a slightly higher vantage point since I am on the second story. Despite the man-made overabundance of buildings and cars, I was pleasantly surprised by the greenery that is consistently overlooked by those on a mission after leaving their apartment. There are many trees visible over the horizon of asphalt that assaults the eyes; the landscaping over the complex is particularly well maintained, as the bushes all appeared well-manicured and the grass, though a little soggy from the rains over the past few days, is still inexplicably green. Although I saw few people out and about while I was taking notes, the ones that I did were not at all surprising to me, as they were all white, male and female college-aged students coming and going from their respective apartments. A few brought out their dogs to use the restroom around the same time. Most of the noise stemmed from these two activities, as many cars were driving down the road, and dogs could be heard barking in the distance. As I mentioned, much of the area was damp from the previous rains, which also left an enjoyable musty smell in the air; however, it was a lot less pleasant when mixed with the car exhaust left in the wake of someone leaving the complex.

Even though I have stated this seems like a very mundane landscape to spend the time observing in such a detailed way, the major reason I found this activity to be interesting lies in its use as a transitional space. Very few of us would willingly spend time in a parking lot if not to either leave or return to your apartment; most of us are on autopilot from the moment we turn into the familiar surrounding, only thinking about what we need to do once we are finally home. By reading this environment, I was able to broaden my understanding of the scene and observe other people’s interactions with the setting, furthering my convictions that it is often overlooked and considered unremarkable. This area is mostly associated with transportation, transition, a “getting somewhere,” but lingering in this place conjured questions of “What was here before?” and “What was destroyed out of necessity for more caused by the growth of the university?” Researching deeper into the grounds that Logan’s Square now sits on would be fascinating and another layer of implications for the space.

One Comment

  1. I really like this reminder that even the most mundane spaces–a parking lot–have both a sense of place and a history. I think it suggests the kind of expansion of our primary source basis that can be really helpful in rethinking how we do history.

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