Location, Location, Location
Two days ago the heavy rain and winds led to a change in plans for our bus tour. After several planned stops for photo ops that we declined, the guide seemed increasingly nervous. I imagined her thinking, “what am going to do with these people?” When Amanda realized that the guide did not understand we are professors rather than a typical tour group, she clarified. The guide responded by offering a visit to St. Petersburg State University which we enthusiastically accepted.
As we pulled into the university grounds we passed a building named for Pavlov which was of interest to me given that not many psychologists are honored in this way. The guide received permission to walk us through an academic building that is older than Davidson’s academic buildings and not as well maintained. Yet it had windows from science labs onto the hallway, some of which were open so we could see classes in progress. While it is possible that the architects were well ahead of their time in efforts to show science in action to visitors, much as Davidson’s New Academic Building architects are striving to do, odds are it was a way to get natural light deeper into the building.
The similarities between the Russian academic building and Davidson’s Chambers building included fliers plastered across bulletin boards, students milling about and waiting to get into classrooms, people walking hallways and staircases seemingly lost in thought (or maybe just sleepy?), and an overall buzz of activity that felt like home. One difference was that there are guards at the entrance who monitor everyone who enters and leaves the building. Perhaps most surprising was that when we witnessed a professor letting students into a lecture hall, he had to unlock the door. The process seemed relatively involved with multiple rotations of the key, as we must do for our apartment door, and possibly multiple locks (I couldn’t see clearly but he seemed to need to work at it).
At one point we passed a marker in a foyer that the guide said honored the university students and faculty members who had been killed in WWII. Later we passed a marker in a hallway between classrooms that honored the people caught in the blockade. Rightfully so that experience is a big part of this city’s identity. (For those unfamiliar with the story, the Nazi forces held the city, then called Leningrad, under siege for roughly 900 days, killing at least 1.5 million people.)
I was struck by the presence of these markers inside the building where people would pass them every day, in part because one of Davidson’s WWII veterans once complained that the Davidson WWII monument is so out of the way that no one knows it is there. Where do monuments have the most impact? If we pass them every day, possibly multiple times, does that affect us more than when we must consciously go to visit them? The old real estate maxim is “location, location, location” but what is the most desirable location for a monument?