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Everyday America: Cultural Landscape Studies after J. B. Jackson

CHRIS WILSON
PAUL GROTH
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 395
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1ppdt3
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    Everyday America
    Book Description:

    As old as a roadway that was once a Native trail, as new as the suburban subdivisions spreading across the American countryside, the cultural landscape is endlessly changing. The study of cultural landscapes-a far more recent development-has also undergone great changes, ever broadening, deepening, and refining our understanding of the intricate webs of social and ecological spaces that help to define human groups and their activities.Everyday Americasurveys the widening conceptions and applications of cultural landscape writing in the United States and, in doing so, offers a clear and compelling view of the state of cultural landscape studies today. These essays-by distinguished journalists, historians, cultural geographers, architects, landscape architects, and planners-constitute a critical evaluation of the field's theoretical assumptions, and of the work of John Brinckerhoff Jackson, the pivotal figure in the emergence of cultural landscape studies. At the same time, they present exemplary studies of twentieth-century landscapes, from the turn-of-the-century American downtown to the corporate campus and the mini-mall. Assessing the field's accomplishments and shortcomings, offering insights into teaching the subject, and charting new directions for its future development,Everyday Americais an eloquent statement of the meaning, value, and potential of the close study of human environments as they embody, reflect, and reveal American culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93590-7
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. 1 THE POLYPHONY OF CULTURAL LANDSCAPE STUDY: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)
    PAUL GROTH and CHRIS WILSON

    In the 1950s, the termcultural landscaperarely appeared in print. This was true even when writers needed a term to describe the intricate webs of mental, social, and ecological spaces that help to define human groups and their activities. By the 1990s, however, the term had clearly arrived in professional and literary circles.Cultural landscapeor, more often, the wordlandscapealone, had come to refer to urban settings, building interiors, and even computer screen images, as well as planted or rural prospects. Between 1950 and 1990, people studying culture, history, and social relations had gradually realized the importance...

  5. EVALUATING J. B. JACKSON
    • [INTRODUCTION]
      (pp. 25-26)

      The historian Patricia Nelson Limerick begins this section of assessments of John Brinckerhoff Jackson. With the kind of humor and accessible language that Jackson himself might have used, she deftly outlines Jackson′s rhetorical rules for the ″sport″ of inquiry and assertion, such as making confident and sometimes outrageous assertions (especially counterintuitive ones), engaging in contradiction, appearing to merge with the opposition, and practicing nonlinear thinking—all of which, Limerick notes, were effective parts of Jackson′s campaign to lure specialists away from their cautiously footnoted turfs and toward a more spirited play of the mind.

      Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz unlocks some of...

    • 2 J. B. JACKSON AND THE PLAY OF THE MIND: Inquiry and Assertion as Contact Sports
      (pp. 27-36)
      PATRICIA NELSON LIMERICK

      The title of this essay and the idea driving it come from the merging of a few impressions. First, J. B. Jackson′s use of vision and sight was a lot more vigorous and immediate than my use of vision and sight. When he looked at a landscape, it was a very physical, direct, tactile sort of encounter; in other words, looking at a landscape was, for him, a contact sport. Second, Jackson wrote memorably and vividly about sports and play and had quite a sound understanding of the inner world of sports. Third, Jackson took up the intellectual activities of...

    • 3 J. B. JACKSON AS A CRITIC OF MODERN ARCHITECTURE
      (pp. 37-48)
      HELEN LEFKOWITZ HOROWITZ

      John Brinckerhoff Jackson′s greatest contribution was to reintroduce Americans to their vernacular landscape, to teach them to see again—and in a new light—the common elements of roads, houses, yards, and towns. Written in a clear and dramatic style, his essays seem artless. They sprang, however, from a highly educated sensibility and careful literary craft. Moreover, they arose from a love of the baroque and an opposition to the Modern movement in architecture and planning (figs. 3.1 and 3.2).¹ Paradoxically, delineating the vernacular landscape of the United States became a way for Jackson to express his distaste for modernism...

    • 4 LEARNING FROM BRINCK
      (pp. 49-61)
      DENISE SCOTT BROWN

      During the 1960s and 1970s, J.B. Jackson, Robert Venturi, and I were among a group of academics and professionals who had started to question some core values of the architecture and urban planning of the post–World War II era. Although ″Brinck,″ as we knew him, seemed to dislike designers in print, he maintained friendly associations with many architects and planners, including Bob (then my colleague, later my partner) and me. Our friendship with Brinck, based on a shared interest in the everyday landscape, profoundly influenced our work and perhaps his too.

      The parallels in our ideas became public in...

    • 5 LOOKING DOWN THE ROAD: J.B. Jackson and the American Highway Landscape
      (pp. 62-80)
      TIMOTHY DAVIS

      J.B. Jackson′s reputation as the father of landscape studies rests in no small measure on his original and insightful interpretations of the American highway and its attendant culture of mobility. While most contemporary writers condemned the roadside landscape and decried the highway′s influence on American life, Jackson sought to understand the modern motorway on its own terms and relate it to broader social and historical patterns. Rather than reject the new highway landscape as an affront to traditional social and aesthetic values, Jackson examined the forces that shaped its development and interpreted its appeal to the motoring masses. Together with...

  6. TEACHING AND LEARNING LANDSCAPE VISION
    • [INTRODUCTION]
      (pp. 83-84)

      The chapters in this section all come from experienced teachers. Here these instructors share some of the ways they have taught and learned skills and ideas needed to do cultural landscape analysis.

      As a geography professor for more than four decades, Peirce Lewis has championed the tradition of treating landscapes as vital, if often complicated and contradictory, evidence of history and culture. He is known as someone who can confront an audience of students who have never looked seriously at their everyday surroundings and in a single hour forever change the way they see the world. In his chapter, Lewis...

    • 6 THE MONUMENT AND THE BUNGALOW: The Intellectual Legacy of J.B. Jackson
      (pp. 85-108)
      PEIRCE LEWIS

      In the evolution of modern American geography, few writers or teachers have left a more important and indelible intellectual legacy than John Brinckerhoff Jackson, a man who dominated scholarly thinking about the American landscape for almost half a century. It is fair to say that at the time of his death in 1996, no single individual had done more to enliven the study of ordinary American landscapes; no writer had done more to influence and make respectable the study of seemingly ordinary things.¹ Toward the end of his career, KQED, the public television station in San Francisco, made a documentary...

    • 7 CROSSING THE AMERICAN GRAIN WITH VESALIUS, GEDDES, AND JACKSON: The Cross Section as a Learning Tool
      (pp. 109-129)
      GRADY CLAY

      George Steiner, in his essay ″Word against Object,″ noted, ″The uses of language for alternity … for illusion and play, are the greatest of man′s tools by far. With this stick he has reached out of the cage of instinct to touch the boundaries of the universe and of time.″¹ So it is that Brinck Jackson—with his own self-made stick,Landscapemagazine—eloquently reached out to touch the boundaries of his personal universe and to make them our own. It was he who, in good company, introduced the world to his Southwest, and vice versa; also inLandscape, he...

    • 8 BASIC ″BRINCKSMANSHIP″: Impressions Left in a Youthful Mind
      (pp. 130-141)
      JEFFREY W. LIMERICK

      From the late 1960s through most of the 1970s, J.B. Jackson was at the height of his formal teaching career. During that time, he introduced several thousand students on both sides of the country to cultural landscape studies. Through his engaging lecture style (enlivened by his dry, often self-deprecating sense of humor), his use of the Socratic method in more informal discussions and conversations, and his spirit of intellectual inclusivity in inviting others to join him, Jackson sought to interest his students in the everyday landscape. More often than not, he succeeded.

      In 1970 I was one of the two...

    • 9 OBSERVATIONS OF FAITH: Landscape Context in Design Education
      (pp. 142-158)
      TRACY WALKER MOIR-MCCLEAN

      Architectural designers often emphasize the formal, visual, and spatial aspects of design at the expense of factors that respond to human culture and comfort. In many schools of architecture, this predilection for purely visual issues is inculcated during first-year design courses, when students are asked to temporarily suspend consideration of historical and cultural issues while they learn the language of space and form. Educators often discourage attention to human issues because beginning students have difficulty addressing both the clarity of basic formal patterns (the usual primary goal of beginning studies) and human needs. As a result, students may receive an...

  7. QUESTIONING THEORETICAL ASSUMPTIONS
    • [INTRODUCTION]
      (pp. 161-162)

      The architectural historian Gwendolyn Wright provides an appropriate beginning to this section when she warns of the dangers in what she calls ″modern vernaculars″—the specialized expert languages that so often defensively isolate one discipline or school of thought from another, and that separate scholars in the humanities from design practitioners, journalists, preservationists, and environmentalists. She also warns against the tendency of many groups to ″harbor the belief that theirs is the only intelligent (or responsive or creative) way to engage important topics.″ Wright counsels us to ″acquire fluency in multiple modern vernaculars″; to learn to experience the world from...

    • 10 ON MODERN VERNACULARS AND J. B. JACKSON
      (pp. 163-177)
      GWENDOLYN WRIGHT

      J.B. Jackson unfailingly played the role of devil′s advocate. To raise questions about someone′s usual perspective—as a speaker or a listener, as a reader of words or images—helps keep both parties from fixating on any one set of conventions. It therefore seems only appropriate to honor Jackson by continuing his iconoclastic determination to look closely at words, places, and ideas that are too easily dismissed or taken for granted. This attitude of his pertained not only to mainstream intellectual life, but also to alternative cultures and to individuals, including any friend who enjoyed his correspondence.

      Some observers have...

    • 11 WHAT (ELSE) WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT LANDSCAPE: For a Return to the Social Imagination
      (pp. 178-198)
      GEORGE L. HENDERSON

      A view, a place, a picture, an angle on the world …a landscape. How many meanings of that word might there be? Anyone who has been a student of landscape for even a short period of time, or who has read the dictionary entry, for that matter, will surely discover that the meanings are multiple, and perhaps multiplying. But how do these meanings serve the cultural and social critique that is the point of much landscape scholarship, and how does such critique itself generate landscape meanings? That landscapehasmultiple meanings, that it is a concept and refers not...

    • 12 NORMATIVE DIMENSIONS OF LANDSCAPE
      (pp. 199-218)
      RICHARD H. SCHEIN

      American cultural landscapes have many interpreters. Academics and scholars from a half dozen fields—architects, landscape architects, and other design practitioners; historic preservationists; planners; and even commercial developers—all share a fascination with the tangible, visible scene that transcends disciplinary boundaries. In moments of optimism, this professional fascination is shared with the group that so many writers fervently hope exists, that is, the ″lay audience″ of men and women who actually notice their everyday surroundings and ask questions about its order, form, history, and meaning. While professional and lay fascination may be shared, educational backgrounds vary widely. Thus it is...

    • 13 PRIVATE PROPERTY AND THE ECOLOGICAL COMMONS IN THE AMERICAN WEST
      (pp. 219-232)
      MARK FIEGE

      Travel through the rural American West and, sooner or later, you will come across a seemingly innocuous sign. Usually metal or cardboard, a little rusty or weathered, it is often fixed to a wood post in a fence strung with barbed wire. It faces outward, toward the public right-of-way, perhaps a road, trail, forest, prairie, or stream. To its rear is a private landscape, private property, filled with pasture or crops but also grass, brush, trees, and other plants. It states in bold letters: no hunting, or no hunting without permission, or private property—no hunting, or some variation of...

  8. INTERPRETING TWENTIETH-CENTURY URBAN LANDSCAPES
    • [INTRODUCTION]
      (pp. 235-236)

      The authors of the last section of this book, each from a different academic discipline, apply current cultural landscape practice to four very different parts of the American city and suburb. In doing so, they provide ample proof of the ongoing adaptive characteristics of landscape studies.

      Architectural historian Jessica Sewell reminds us of the importance not only of seeing whatisin the physical landscape, but also the power of experience and imagination as lenses for confronting social conflict and instigating political change. Using examples from San Francisco in the early twentieth century, Sewell compares the mixed-gender experiences of supposedly...

    • 14 GENDER, IMAGINATION, AND EXPERIENCE IN THE EARLY-TWENTIETH-CENTURY AMERICAN DOWNTOWN
      (pp. 237-254)
      JESSICA SEWELL

      In ″The Word Itself,″ J.B. Jackson defined cultural landscape as ″a composition of man-made or man-modified spaces to serve as infrastructure or background for our collective existence … which underscores … our identity and presence.″¹ Cultural landscapes consist not only of physical spaces, but also of the way people think about and experience those physical spaces. Paul Groth, building on an unpublished manuscript by J.B. Jackson, has defined landscape as ″the interaction of people and place: a social group and its spaces, particularly the spaces to which the group belongs and from which its members derive some part of their...

    • 15 CAMPUS, ESTATE, AND PARK: Lawn Culture Comes to the Corporation
      (pp. 255-274)
      LOUISE A. MOZINGO

      Beginning in the 1940s, American corporate management built three new business landscapes at the urban periphery: the corporate campus, the corporate estate, and the office park. In edge-city conurbations they may appear chaotic, but they function as distinct niches of the corporate workplace, contrived with discernible intent. Though they are different in specifics, common motives have fashioned these suburban environments. The purported magic of gazing at greenness lies at these landscapes’ conceptual core—magic credited with generating productivity, competitiveness, and public approbation (fig. 15.1).

      The emergence of suburban corporate landscapes was framed by the conceptual precedents of the public park...

    • 16 THE ENACTED ENVIRONMENT: Examining the Streets and Yards of East Los Angeles
      (pp. 275-292)
      JAMES ROJAS

      My image of home is the street where I grew up, rather than the house where I slept at night. Life inside the house was bleak and indifferent compared to the excitement and fascination of the street.

      In 1963, when my family moved to Hendricks Street in East Los Angeles, it was a street in a typical working-class neighborhood, just off Whittier Boulevard, about seven miles east of downtown Los Angeles. The small houses, painted white, with their tidy front yards, created a sense of visual harmony in the neighborhood. Most of the residents were older white couples, with a...

    • 17 MEDICINE IN THE (MINI) MALL: An American Health Care Landscape
      (pp. 293-308)
      DAVID C. SLOANE

      In one of his last papers, J. B. Jackson described the rise of the ″auto-vernacular″ landscape, which he had been chronicling for decades. ″The car has taken over,″ he wrote, ″taking the family to the day care center, the Laundromat, the supermarket, the drive-in restaurant, the emergency room at the hospital.″ The new car-centered landscape represented a shift in daily urban life, since the auto-vernacular was ″composed of structures and spaces designed to accommodate the auto as distinguished from spaces designed to accommodate people.″ Jackson struggled with understanding the scope, meaning, and consequences of this landscape about which he felt...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 309-356)
  10. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 357-362)
  11. ILLUSTRATION CREDITS
    (pp. 363-366)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 367-385)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 386-386)