In the later part of the nineteenth century, American bicyclists were explorers, cycling through both charted and uncharted territory. These wheelmen and wheelwomen became keen observers of suburban and rural landscapes, and left copious records of their journeys—in travel narratives, journalism, maps, photographs, illustrations. They were also instrumental in the construction of roads and paths (“wheelways”)—building them, funding them, and lobbying legislators for them.
Landscape, John Stilgoe tells us, is a noun. From the old Frisian language (once spoken in coastal parts of the Netherlands and Germany), it meant shoveled land: landschop. Sixteenth-century Englishmen misheard or mispronounced this as landskep, which became landskip, then landscape, designating the surface of the earth shaped for human habitation.
There are an estimated 600,000,000 passenger cars in the world, and that number is increasing every day. So too is Earth’s supply of parking spaces. In some cities, parking lots cover more than one-third of the metropolitan footprint. It’s official: we have paved paradise and put up a parking lot. In ReThinking a Lot, Eran Ben-Joseph shares a different vision for parking’s future. Parking lots, he writes, are ripe for transformation. After all, their design and function has not been rethought since the 1950s.
Expansion, convergence, adjacency, projection, rapport, and intersection are a few of the terms used to redraw the boundaries between art and architecture during the last thirty-five years. If modernists invented the model of an ostensible “synthesis of the arts,” their postmodern progeny promoted the semblance of pluralist fusion.
By the end of the twentieth century, America’s suburbs contained more office space than its central cities. Many of these corporate workplaces were surrounded, somewhat incongruously, by verdant vistas of broad lawns and leafy trees. In Pastoral Capitalism, Louise Mozingo describes the evolution of these central (but often ignored) features of postwar urbanism in the context of the modern capitalist enterprise.
A Landscape History of New England takes a view of New England’s landscapes that goes beyond picture postcard-ready vistas of white-steepled churches, open pastures, and tree-covered mountains. Its chapters, for example, describe the Native American presence in the Maine Woods; offer a history of agriculture told through stone walls, woodlands, and farm buildings; report on the fragile ecology of tourist-friendly Cape Cod beaches; and reveal the ethnic stereotypes informing Colonial Revivalism.
Dirt presents a selection of works that share dirty attitudes: essays, interviews, excavations, and projects that view dirt not as filth but as a medium, a metaphor, a material, a process, a design tool, a narrative, a system. Rooted in the landscape architect’s perspective, Dirt views dirt not as repulsive but endlessly giving, fertile, adaptive, and able to accommodate difference while maintaining cohesion. This dirty perspective sheds light on social connections, working processes, imaginative ideas, physical substrates, and urban networks.
The artist’s relationship to landscape was once invoked by a canvas on an easel in a picturesque vista. No more. In the 1960s, the Earth Artists started focusing on natural systems and entropy; in the 1970s, photographers in the New Topographics movement turned their attention unsentimentally to the industrialized “man-altered” environment; in the 1980s, artists animated the natural landscape with art, movement, and performance; and in the 1990s, Eco-Artists collaborated with scientists to address sustainability, pollution, and politics.
A. J. Downing (1815-1852) wrote the first American treatise on landscape gardening. As editor of the Horticulturist and the country's leading practitioner and author, he promoted a national style of landscape gardening that broke away from European precedents and standards. Like other writers and artists, Downing responded to the intensifying demand in the nineteenth century for a recognizably American cultural expression.
Amidst city concrete and suburban sprawl, Americans are discovering new ways to reconnect with the natural world. From community gardens in New York's Lower East Side to homeless shelters in California, the search for a more sustainable future has led grassroots groups to a profound reconnection to place and to the natural world.