I live in a house built in 1850 and work in a library built in 1838. I love their mysteries, the manifestations of decisions I’ll never understand, the unexpected encounters created by their inexplicably evolved corners, oblique messages to be interpreted from the random remains of their original intents. I love the wonky floors, precarious stairs, and suggestions of a drunken hand at the lathe. I love the complicitous negotiations that such idiosyncracies demand; I love our fraught, devious intimacies, hard-won and never entirely assured.
Now imagine my shock: I’ve fallen in love with the GTECH Building.
A Jane Austen fan, I should have recognized the signs: prideful certitude and a too-heated hatred. But I was blind. Like everyone, I decried the State House-obliterating location and anomalous design, a corporate ice cube plunked into our lively old-world cityscape. Last winter I’d drive by, cursing the rising beams, only later registering the spark I’d felt one cold night at seeing tiny white bulbs illuminating the rudimentary skeleton. Then, in spring, the glass appeared and I noticed I was watching with anticipation, not dread, and mapping daily itineraries so as to pass by. By June I had to remind myself to watch where I was going, so mesmerized was I by the sky’s reflection in the building’s mirrory surface.
Still, when friends denounced it, I kept silent, questioning my sanity. The surrounding Westin, Marriott, and mall now depressed me with their monotonous lack of aspiration, banal surfaces, and cynical stabs at ornamentation. They were so tiresomely, one-dimensionally present. I loved their despised neighbor because it was impossible to really see it, my eyes seeking its essence but being taken in by what it reflected — I always left feeling that for all it had revealed, it had kept hidden even more. For next time.
Finally, I dragged two architect friends to the site, confessed my crush, and begged to be cured. It didn’t work. True, I hate the junky colored panels above the terrace, and the parking level mesh looks awful up close, and the swooping wing doesn’t mitigate the ugly bits at Memorial and Francis. But as Proust says, “A clear view of certain inferiorities in no way diminishes affection; on the contrary, love makes us consider them charming.” Like all good relationships, this one works because I look for what I want to see. Glance over from City Hall: you see through one window to another to the sky beyond. Turn down Francis Street from the State House: you face a plane so perfectly flat that it tricks you each time into thinking there’s nothing behind it. In the end I love the new glass building for the same reasons I love my sphinx-like house and library — it confounds my gaze and keeps me guessing.
With this confession, I’d best leave town. Society may now allow us to marry across class, but we all know which buildings we may and may not love — if we want to eat lunch in this town again.