Friday, June 10, 2011

New Lanark

New Lanark is a beautiful site. The first layer of attraction is the actual stone and mortar--carefully restored with a sharp eye to adaptive reuse--meaning the spirit and essence is retained while making them actually useable. That useability is another attraction. New Lanark was a hardworking industrial site and very profitable--at least for quite some time--because it looked continually at the usefulness of everything it was doing.

That spirit still prevails in New Lanark and manifests itself in a million little inventions in siting and using the water and encouraging innovation and hard work.
The river and the buildings had to work at least as hard as the people did--and no doubt they worked very hard. I like the fact that the historical reconstruction does not romanticize the life in the mills. No doubt it was better than elsewhere, but things can be better and still not be very good--hot, wet, stifling air, and deafening noise were the order of the day for 6 long days of each week.

The trees and gardens that Robert Owens planted are mature now and give a graceful frame and cool backdrop for the stone buildings.

The newly added roof top garden is in keeping with both Owen's ideas of hard working buildings (a garden adds a lot of weight to a roof) and his idea of the virtues of fresh air and garden spaces.

The labyrinth on the roof top garden in New Lanark is much like the one at the sister site of New Lanark in Indiana, New Harmony. Owen went down the Wabash to the wilderness that was Indiana in 1825 with other visionaries and reformers dubbed the "boatload of knowledge" to apply and extend lessons learned from two decades at New Lanark. Now both sites resonate with his innovativeness and passion for the mutual benefits of a more harmonious spirit in industry and at home.

One of my favourite themes from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a reminder that beauty and elegance--the "heart of the Buddha" can be found in well crafted technology as readily as in a "lotus blossom" if we are prepared to look. These vestiges of the original waterworks struck me as extremely beautiful, so I include a photo of them among the trees and flowers.
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