10 days in the USA

Ten days in the USA filled my head with impressions. First visits to Charleston and Savannah revealed towns that are immeasurably different, even if both are in the southern states, both antebellum. Live oaks are veiled in Spanish moss, a reminder of the humid, extreme, climate.

In atmosphere I found Charleston gentler. The view of water lapping away at the far end of King Street was magic (on a fine spring morning, at least) but I overdosed on gigantic handsome houses on which prodigious sums of money had been spent and where, I gather, their wealthy owners rarely come.

The more modest areas with their ‘single’ house, one room, gable end onto the street, spilling onto ‘piazzas’ (the tiered balconies,with doors alongside) demonstrate more surprises and signs of life.

Savannah spoke volumes to this Bloomsbury dweller. The humane plan, based on a linked sequence of public green spaces (eighteen, I think) 1820’s to 1860’s in character, was really appealing. The waterfront is quite a separate deal, tougher but complementary. To my considerable surprise I discovered John Soane’s influence in Savannah through the work of architect William Jay, who arrived there from London in 1817, steeped in what he learned from his Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy.

Currently the entire city of Savannah is benefiting from education. Over fifty buildings (mostly historic structures, many brought back from disuse) scattered across the town, are part of the ambitious Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) expansion plan.

From there to New York City. Teeming with new open spaces, ranging from the High Line (I prefer the Parisian version) to Brooklyn Bridge Park, a work in progress along the shoreline of the old port area and now framing the new buildings as they rise on Ground Zero across the water.

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