Tuesday, June 21, 2022

The Picture of Columbia


A reminder from the Columbia Association that today is a red-letter day:

Lookin' cool at 55! Happy birthday Columbia, we couldn't be more excited about your future.

#HappyBirthday #ColumbiaMD #ColumbiaAssociation #DowntownColumbiaLakefront

It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were celebrating Columbia’s 50th does it? A lot has happened since then.

I had a few thoughts as I looked at this photo. It is, of course, Columbia founder Jim Rouse’s statue at the Lakefront. It occurred to me that this close-up does him no favors. It reminded me of the times my mother would see someone famous, or someone she had known long ago and say, “My, he’s aged.” 

Really, his “skin” is looking pretty terrible. Most of us wouldn’t look a whole lot better if photographed at this distance. It’s hardly flattering. 

It made me wonder how Columbia itself would look in this kind of (metaphorical) closeup. Original buildings have aged, of course. Some are gone. New buildings have been pushing up towards the sky and changing Columbia’s landscape. Organizations like Village associations and CA itself have aged as well, sometimes expanding or contracting. They reflect the nature of the New American City in middle age.

The truth is, I wouldn’t have used a photo of Rouse to celebrate Columbia’s birthday. If I were to focus on any one thing, it would be the People Tree, dedicated on the day of Columbia’s founding: June 21st, 1967. But the Columbia Association doesn’t own the People Tree anymore. The statue and its likeness are owned by the Howard Hughes Corporation. Perhaps that’s why we don’t see it here.

At this point the image of Columbia that actual Columbians hold in their heads is probably not one defining image. For some it is the time-honored Lake Kittamaqundi vista. For others it is in the new settings of the Merriweather District. Green space and the enjoyment of pools, parks, and pathways maybe be the first images that come to mind for some folks. That is their quintessential Columbia view.

After 55 years maybe there is no one image that symbolizes Columbia. It is appreciated best in a big picture view, like one of those overhead drone film sequences. Take an imaginary flight over Columbia: what do you see? Village Festivals? Concerts at the Chrysalis? Fourth of July fireworks? 

As we note Columbia’s 55th birthday in the midst of continuing transformation and no small growing pains, I’m interested to know: what is your picture of Columbia? 

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