Sunday, August 11, 2013

My Savannah Dream

Recently, I awoke from a dream realizing that I had spent the entire dream wandering through a city with a grid patterned after Savannah's. Even in the densest areas of this city, where the structures of a Manhattan-like downtown had taken over the areas of entire wards, here the signature square layout of Savannah was architecturally integrated into the interior spatial layouts of high-rise megablocks. In the dream, the distinction between building space and open space seemed to have thoroughly blended, so that what carried through was the cohesion of the pattern rather than the clear-cut delineation of space. The squares of the city had taken extreme forms and qualities... a grotesque Savannah.

This Savannah was perhaps real Savannah's alter ego, in carnival drag. In real life, Savannah can't repress her natural stabilization: a mixed use, genteel and low-rise format which diversifies uses through the characteristics of streets and the countervailing pulls of its fabric dynamics (an interesting and measurable quality for situating diversity resiliently, urbanists).

But in the dream, distortions and extremities were the norm. Not just in terms of density. Some squares were pristine clearings still, filled with dewy light and new faux-Victorian homes just being erected, smelling like freshly cut timber.  Another square, littered and abandoned, was domed over by a cavernous Hagia Sophia-like structure, with large facades of glass through which blue-ish, silvery light poured through. Another square was similarly domed but filled with chandeliers, mirrors and gilded furniture, and packed with revelers. There was even a spooky area where the city had collapsed in on itself and had reverted into a live oak wilderness. The sulking presence of swamp creatures could be felt as they coiled into crevices in the shadowy brick piles.

As usual, nothing that was occupying my attention in the dream made much sense upon recollection. One doesn’t apprehend the comedic logic of dream events while one is experiencing them usually. My city dreams, in particular, have the quality of tragic-epic pilgrimages, for, as in most dreams, the quest always seems curiously tottering and perpetually side-tracked. In this dream, it involved crossing the variegated city with a band of acquaintances, like a poorly planned, shoe-string expedition of urban explorers recruited on Craigslist.

My first realization in my bedside review of the dream was that the only mode of travel that was allowed in the city was walking, perhaps my internalized credit to the walkable superiority of Savannah's form. However, striking to me here was the fact that in the dream the walking excursion was curiously obstacle filled. Movement was frustrated primarily by carnivalesque throngs of people and the animated skeletons of, well, what must be classified as former pets. There was, however, a singular interlude through a bottomless hall-like section where passage was afforded with the help of trapeze acrobatics. (Is that a mode? Call it "catenary enabled pedestrianism"... except without streetcars, ha.)

What does this dream tell me about Savannah? Is Savannah now an urbanist folly lodged deeply in my subconscious?

I don’t know. All I can say is that dreams spent roving about through strange cities in festival time recur frequently for me. This, however, is the first time Savannah's grid featured tenaciously from the point where I could recollect the dream to awakening. Perhaps it is my subconscious guilt, a gamely kick in the pants from my Id, to revisit my glacially paced study of Savannah's grid? This kind of format, on a blog, is perhaps wrong for it. But I might revisit the thought.