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Across the Open Field

Across the Open Field: Essays Drawn from English Landscapes

Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Across the Open Field
    Book Description:

    "Twenty-eight years ago I went to England for a three-month visit and rest. What I found changed my life."So begins this memoir by one of America's best-known landscape architects, Laurie Olin. Raised in a frontier town in Alaska, trained in Seattle and New York, Olin found himself dissatisfied with his job as an urban architect and accepted an invitation to England to take a respite from work. What he found, in abundance, was the serendipity of a human environment built over time to respond to the land's own character and to the people who lived and worked there. For Olin, the English countryside was a palimpsest of the most eloquent and moving sort, yet whose manifestation was of ordinary buildings meant to shelter their inhabitants and further their work.With evocative language and exquisite line drawings, the author takes us back to his introduction to the scenes of English country towns, their ancient universities, meandering waterways, and dramatic cloudscapes racing in from the Atlantic. He limns the geologic histories found within the rock, the near-forgotten histories of place-names, and the recent histories of train lines and auto routes. Comparing the growth of building in the English countryside, Olin draws some sobering conclusions about our modern lifestyle and its increasing separation from the landscape.As much a plea for saving the modern American landscape as it is a passionate exploration of what makes the English landscape so characteristically English,Across the Open Fieldis "an affectionate ramble through real places of lasting worth."

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0786-6
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. CHAPTER ONE As the Twig Is Bent
    (pp. 1-24)

    One day near the end of my first summer in Britain, while visiting Magdalen College, Oxford, the cumulative experience of recent walks, sights, senses, and ideas, the layering of efforts and disciplines that have made the landscape of southern Britain, became overwhelming. Many thousands of people before me have passed through this college and its environs and have been moved by its tranquil cloister, commenting on the charm of the river and bridge, the shady waterside path known as Addison’s walk, and the harmony between Sir Christopher Wren’s classical building and the earlier Gothic arcades and tower. On this particular...

  5. CHAPTER TWO On Buckland and Drawing: First Impressions and Later Observations
    (pp. 25-70)

    There is an elusive aspect to life in the English countryside. If I were to name any one quality that best describes the feeling of the village of Buckland in midsummer, I would probably choose that of calm, of stillness and quiet. It would be a mistake, however, to presume that Buckland was a ghost town or somehow dull and soporific. Quite the contrary is true. It was busy, humming with activity in fact, but of the quiet, resolved nature of bees moving about the flowers in a kitchen garden. A steady, orderly routine, centuries old, goes on. Farmers rise...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Village and Farm: Longbridge Deverill, Wiltshire
    (pp. 71-206)

    I was not in fact to return to Buckland, even when I secured funding a few years later and set off for England once again. In returning to the topic of the English landscape with a wife whom I’d met in England during that first summer visit and our six-month-old daughter, I went to a property in Wiltshire that my wife’s family had recently purchased. It was on the edge of Salisbury Plain and called Loughridge Deverill. It was not a name that meant anything to me, but at least its position between Salisbury and Bath seemed promising. I was...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Et in Arcadia Ego: Landscape Gardens and Parks
    (pp. 207-324)

    I had been in england for the first time for all of eight hours when friends took me out onto a terrace overlooking a private park in Oxfordshire. It was a lovely July evening with the sun flooding a meadow below, and across the golden wheat fields of the Thames valley and the hills of the Cotswolds beyond to the north. A herd of fallow deer silently grazed belly deep in the meadow grasses and wildflowers between us and a lake several hundred yards downhill. Dark cedars towered over the honey-colored pavilions to our left and right that were the...

  8. In Conclusion: Beauty Past Change
    (pp. 325-330)

    Buckland house may stand, then, for the eighteenth century’s great achievement—the image and idea of a park: undulating land forms; trees set out singly and in groves, occasionally with underplanting; a sprinkling of neoclassical features in visually significant locations; gently curving paths and drives; and natural-appearing bodies of water—lakes, streams, and ponds. Brown died in 1783 and Woods in 1793. Their less well known contemporaries faded away. Humphry Repton, John Nash, and others were to continue to build such works, not only on isolated country estates but also in the very heart of London and other cities. The...

  9. Suggestions for Further Reading
    (pp. 331-342)
  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 343-344)
  11. Index
    (pp. 345-352)