Architecture marks the character of a place longer than its inhabitants, who offer the timeline of evolution. Blending past with future is a running theme in much of my work—a curiosity to not ignore the rearview mirror. But mine is more than a desire not to burn bridges, it is a commitment to learn from the past. Through the research I do for illustration, I become immersed in subjects enough to present, simply and symbolically, their essences. I hope that I can extend my imagination, through modern technology, help from friends, and research, back in time. Working on a series of Hessen historic homes, I am very grateful to cousin Tom Euler, mayor of Allendorf, who has assisted in this time-travel adventure.
What strikes me most about the architecture in Allendorf (the new homes mirror the old) versus the architecture of where I, as a descendant live near Chicago, reveals the a difference in lifestyle values. There, the street side of the homes are formal and uninviting. Gates close off the house entrance as well as enclose courtyards. Where I live, the entrance doors are on the front, have with walkways and steps up to a porch. If there is not room for a small front yard, there is always a median with trees and grass. In Allendorf, the gardens, trees, and grass are hidden behind the street facades. Yet essentially, the interior floor plans of the homes are probably similar. The silhouette of peaked roof and outline is similar; barns become garages.
The differences between the feeling of a central European village and a midwestern United States town demonstrates how architecture both dictates and reflects the lifestyle of its inhabitants. As I draw structures in a town of ancestors, I get a perspective of the culture preserved by descendants and the cultural change the immigrants embraced. —always inspired, Liane
Historic Access— An exploration of family origins leads back to 1500 Allendorf/Lahn-Giessen, Germany. Through a friendship, an amazing discovery, and a place that integrates natural beauty, history, and contemporary living, there is much to inspire. They are proud of many houses that were build in the late 1600s and early 1700s. A series of illustrations captures some of these historical gems and the impact of time.
“Spirit of Place: Creation versus Preservation” examines a life-long dilemma of balance. There is a trend in Allendorf to plaster over the original half-timber skeletons. From an American point-of-view, these wooden patterns offer a warmth, coziness, and charm. But, it may be that to the residents, that makes an area appear old-fashioned or out of date. These homes, though hundreds of years old, are very much within date! The plaster lends a geometry, simplicity, and unity, while following the shapes and design. Taking an illustration that I did of Obergasse 7 in Allendorf, I imagine what it must have looked like when my ancestors lived there. Most of the homes that I have drawn would be familiar to them.
“Finding Foundations” It is impressive how much of the past is preserved in Hesse, considering the turmoils that challenge survival. Allendorf is proud of its central old town that has evolved for almost four hundred years. Any of these could have been homes to ancestors, today occupied by cousins. From the center of town, illustrating the historic buildings along Obergasse is a walking-tour of the imagination. It represents a continuity very rare in the “new world,” and a determination for preservation that continues from generation to generation. Through this journey, I find a kindred spirit asking many of the same questions.
“Historic Hessen Houses” Several of the Heritage Cultural homes display the half timber construction. From an American viewpoint, their wood patterns convey a warmth and charm. Distinctive consistency gives a harmony to the ancient streets, and the mix of new between the old still maintains style. It turns out that I am descended from three of the founding families, and discover much in common with cousin Tom Euler, mayor of Allendorf.
Please see this related example of my illustrations:
“Drawing Backwards in Time” Although a building may have endured many changes since built, hints of its original form exists. Sometimes old photographs show how a house looked, but most often, there are no images. Illustration can fill the gap. I have always wondered what my house was like in 1888 when new. It certainly does not look the same now! With an enclosed front porch, room additions, siding, and decorative shutters, its character is totally transformed. So I went to City Hall, researched the permits and historic records, and concluded with this interpretation.
Liane Sebastian wears an artist’s hat, designer’s coat, and editor’s shoes.