The Painting That I Had To Leave Behind

Years ago I built a house in the southwest Calgary neighborhood of Bankview. My neighbours to the east had subdivided their lot into 2 small infill lots; in order for me to build on the lot I had purchased from them, they had to remediate the side elevation of their existing home in certain ways. As result of the subdivision the old house encroached into the side yard which meant that an existing side door and window had to be closed up … in building code lingo, this means not having any unprotected openings in a wall that is too close to the property line. Instead of recladding that whole side of the house, they picked a matching, existing siding and literally just filled it in where the door was. Pretty perfectly, but not perfectly. When they were done, they painted the entire house fire red.
So I built my house, and in designing it I put in a dining room window that faced the neighbours side yard for natural light … this, totally accidentally, centered perfectly on the spot where their side door once had been.
At certain times of the day, when the sun shined at a certain angle, the imperfect alignment of the siding would create a shadow line outlining the silhouette of where the door used to be on what was now all horizontal red boards; it was as if someone took a fine pencil and just drew a door on the red siding … a “bas-relief” art work.
Sitting at the dining room table and looking out at this one could admire a red canvas with the outline of a door on it, with the window acting as a picture frame. Like a James Turrell installation, the red painting changed during the day depending on the sun and how the light hit it. It was weird and beautiful and to this day the greatest piece of installation art I have ever owned.
Whether accidentally or on purpose, I believe architecture can do that.

Categories: Happenstance

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