Looking back to my years growing up in the Dominican Republic, I can vividly recall the memories of the sights, sounds and smells that shaped me as a child. As young as I was when I left my country to join my parents in the United States, the power of the places I experienced have molded me into a passionate advocate for the preservation of history and architecture.
My first few years living in this country were extremely difficult. Everything felt strange, from the language and culture to the weather and food. However, with time, I managed not only to adapt to this new land, but also keep my childhood memories alive. Growing up in Boston allowed me to witness firsthand many changes that were taking place in the city, all leaving a powerful impression on me.
One of my first experiences interacting with architecture in the city occurred on a field trip as a student at the Hurley Elementary School in the South End. On our way back to school from the Mapparium located inside the Mary Baker Eddy Library; founder of Christian Science, my classmates and I strolled around the iconic modernist space and jumped into the fountain to cool off from the scorching summer sun.
That was my introduction to Modernism. I have never been able to forget how emotionally intense and powerful this experience was. One, it happened just a few months after leaving the little rural town I was born in and two, I had never seen an enormous pool nor a fountain where kids ran around and played in. The moment was magical, so magical and powerful I often see myself reflected in the lives of the kids who play in this space today.
According to Dolores Hayden in The Power of Place, “[memory] is the key to the power of historic places to help citizens define their public pasts: places trigger memories for insiders who have shared a common past, and at the same time places often can represent shared pasts to outsiders who might be interested in knowing about them in the present” (46). Places have the ability to evoke visual and social memory and the Christian Science Center Complex along with its reflection pool and fountain has not only formulated my understanding and appreciation for Modern architecture today, but was my first introduction to the power of modernism and the role it plays in our lives (of course, this statement I only realized a few years ago while studying art and architectural history in college).
The Plaza is truly one of Boston’s grandest spaces and the emotional attachment I feel is also felt by many friends and colleagues. When hearing of the possible fate of the Plaza, a friend of mine also traveled down memory lane to the days when he was a child playing in the fountain. I sensed the beginning of an emotional void as he perhaps contemplated on the future of this site, a future which everyday seems more uncertain to me and hundreds of people. Designating the plaza as a Boston Landmark will assure that memories are kept alive for many generations of Bostonians whose lives have been touched by this Complex.
Memories last a lifetime. Not designating the plaza as a Boston Landmark is an opportunity to shatter the dreams and memories of those who have experience the magic of the reflection pool, the fountain and its buildings.