Traversing up the stairway on my first visit to the Nicholas Building, I had intentions to explore it, with thoughts that it might be a good place to carry out Assessment 2. However, two floors up, and dread had already kicked in and I didn’t want to see what lied ahead (well, at least not alone). I’m not often someone who is easily creeped out by my surroundings, but I had enough of the eerie silence and dim hallways for one day. It is said that “a person entering the space of non-place is relieved of his usual determinants” (Augé 1995, p. 103). I wanted to go ahead, but instead turned back and decided to come with somebody the following time.
With the experiences I previously had in mind, I decided to document the Nicholas Building in a way that revealed its ability to instil the feeling of being trapped or confined. The next time I went, I was with my group mate, Nicolette, and we explored pretty much the entire building. By “broadening and deepening [my] sensitivities” (Mason 2001), I began to notice the various elements that constituted this prominent building. I looked at the jarring white lights and the cracks in the wall; the alluring architecture and the graffiti on the windows.
We were doing some filming in the elevator when a woman entered and asked us what we were doing. Filming for a uni project, we told her. “You should film one for us,” she said, as the elevator stopped at her floor, indicating that she offered Tarot reading. On a different occasion, we were at the vertical stairwell, and at the very top of the building was a heavy grey door that read NO ACCESS: MAINTENANCE ONLY. We were kindly acknowledged by a woman who too asked us what we were doing. Filming for a uni project, we told her. “You see those locks?” she asked, pointing towards a window nearby. “They’re there ‘cause they found some kids who liked sneakin’ out over there, sittin’ there for a smoke.”
Just as in Karavan’s memorial, the keepers of this building have too “intentionally insert[ed] manufactured objects into the landscape” (Hornstein 2011, p. 19). Padlocks to avoid youngsters from going out for a smoke; closed up entrances that refrain wanderers from wandering; windows that are locked on the inside and barred up on the outside. The walls are stained with graffiti and blotches of spray paint, and stickers dominate little crevices in the building – perhaps a sign of rebellion, or of recognition.
Looking at this building as a non-place and how it “creates neither singular identity nor relations; only solitude, and similitude” (Augé 1995, p. 103), I am brought to think about these spaces that have made room for conversation, and how they give me the impression that there is so much more to the Nicholas Building than what we know. So many hidden secrets, trapped within these walls; countless stories that seem almost as surreal as the building itself.
- Augé, M 1995, Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, Verso, London & New York, p. 75-114, viewed 17 August 2015, <http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~jread2/Auge%20Non%20places.pdf>.
- Hornstein, S 2011, Losing Site: Architecture, Memory and Place, Ashgate Publishing, England, p. 15-22.
- Mason, J 2011, Researching Your Own Practice: The Discipline of Noticing, RoutledgeFalmer, London.