When introduced with the whole Friends With an Old Book concept, my first impressions were that it seemed interesting, but a bit pointless at the same time, I didn’t really get it. And the name was just so cheesy, which didn’t help. However, getting to know the GTA department a bit better and what it deals with (through other tasks and professors) helped me understand the goal of Friends Whit an Old Book (or at least I like to believe so, maybe I am wrong). Therefore, at some point, I understood why we had this odd task of ‘’becoming friends with an old book’’.
I did the first task without thinking much about it. Then came the second task and I had to take an appointment in the music department of Zurich’s central library where my book was stored. I thought I would film and quickly go home. Nevertheless, I ended up staying more than two hours with the two volumes of the book. I didn’t notice the time go by. And found this experience extremely enriching. The music department is in the choir room of the Predigerkirche which has huge gothic vaulted ceilings. The place, (in which I was all alone beside the librarian) brought a lot of cache to this experience.
Of course, everyone has seen an old book somewhere, but it is really different to have the real book between your hand and have the time to feel the paper, observe the size, or just appreciate and admire the craftsmanship that went into old books. Furthermore, to see the handwriting and all the impressive drawings. Maybe I enjoyed this experience so much because I was fortunate enough to get a French book (the language that I speak best), so I could to read parts of it or for example, observe differences between the old French that the book was written in and the one that we speak nowadays. This really made me appreciate this book on another level (therefore it motivated me for the tasks), it was like a personal connection that I had with this book because we both spoke French, in German-speaking Zurich, so that was kind of cool. Surely it was the most interesting task for everybody.
When we had to scan the book with OCR, it didn’t give any readable results for my book. Even if I tried with different copies of the book, I always obtained the same unreadable result, maybe due to the calligraphic handwriting. However, after searching for a while on the internet I was able to find an e-book from where I copied the text and then translated it. So this task was quite challenging, but maybe even more so for other books than mine.
In the end, these tasks taught me that there is a lot to learn from forgotten, maybe nowadays even overlooked books. It gave me a better perspective of the time and work that people put into researching, analyzing, and writing these old books. Which meant to me that there is a lot to learned from those books.
Did I learn a lot about architecture in this task?
Not really, but bare whit me here. What I actually learned, which is more important, is where a huge part of the ‘’architectural knowledge’’, opinions and studies lays in. Where and how I can find it and those tasks definitely made me feel less intimidated by ‘’old architectural books’’. I am sure, as future architects, we can learn a lot from the past, that can help us in the present and for the future.
So, in the end, I am quite happy that we had to do these tasks. They maybe serve a ‘’greater cause’’ (of creating a digital library) but I feel like all those tasks have had even more impact on us, as students. Personally, I learned a lot through the process. It may be widened my mind a bit. This is, of course, my personal experience and what I ‘’took’’ from this exercise, it most surely is different from person to person.
Having said that, what I can be critical about is the tasks that sometimes felt a bit repetitive, or overlapping each other, but on the other end, for me, it’s not the tasks that mattered but the whole experience/process.
Now the most important question: Did we become friends?
I’d like to think so. There is for sure a connection that I have whit this book. I may not be much of a romantic but I would definitely love to see this book again sometime later in life.