The Future of Landscape:
Tweet May 3, If you read a novel, you are connecting directly to the thing that interests you, but if you read an architecture book, you are not.
What books about architecture have to offer is vicarious experience. Even the best architecture books, like museum exhibitions about architecture, leave us one layer removed from the reality of seeing a building, the experience of walking around it, the feeling of being inside it.
Still, for all that we like to believe that in architecture—as the great Latin phrase res ipsa loquitur has it—the thing itself speaks, not all buildings do.
Some of them need help in speaking, in making us understand what they have to say. So the first role of books about architecture is to interpret and explain: This is why I have always had a certain weakness for architectural guidebooks, which proceed from the assumption that the subject matter is the buildings themselves, and that the role of the book is to offer intelligent discussion of the architecture that is in front of you, as if your meanderings were accompanied by a knowledgeable and cultivated friend.
The best guidebooks, like the best friends, have points of view, and they are clear about what they like and what they dislike. You could see that Nairn was made of equal parts of amiability and disagreeableness, that he could swoon, but only over the very finest things; that he could take joy in the most ordinary streetscape if it could be shown to make daily life better; and that he could always be counted on to prefer the work of an eccentric genius like Nicholas Hawksmoor over that of a sane and rational architect like Christopher Wren.
He did more than guide me around the streets of London. Nairn shaped my sensibility, and my sense of London is inextricably bound up in his. An Architectural Guide to Manhattan, and on the work of many other writers.
Time passes, and things change, which makes architectural guidebooks more perishable than many other kinds of books; the London and Paris that Nairn described are no more present today than is the New York of the late s that I wrote about.
Los Angeles comes particularly to mind—are out of date in the sense that they cannot function precisely as they once did, but they remain a great joy to read. Some of the other guidebooks worth having: If architectural guidebooks as a genre can bring you closer to the reality of architecture than most other kinds of books, they nonetheless make only the barest beginning of a basic reading list.
Architecture, after all, is about everything—it is a product of culture and money and politics as well as aesthetics, and sometimes there is more insight about architecture to be found in books that are ostensibly about something else. Can any work of architectural history provoke you to think about the relationship between the physical form of the city and the social life that goes on within it as powerfully as The Age of Innocence does?
Edith Wharton makes manifest the connections between the great houses of New York at the end of the 19th century and the human dramas that occurred inside and around them; you cannot read this great novel and emerge with a better feel for the brick and stone of 19th-century New York than you will get from almost any work of architectural history, and for me there is a special pleasure in sensing the intimate connection between the physical form of architecture and human interaction.
Wharton makes you see architecture not as a simple catalyst—she is far too subtle for that—but as much more than a neutral setting. Blandings Builds His Dream House, by Eric Hodgins, makes the point even more directly, if in nearly farcical fashion, as the suburban ideal of the middle of the 20th century proves to be something of a nightmare.
It is light entertainment compared to Henry James, but it is a humbling book for architects, which is all the more reason they should read it.
In general, I am not particularly high on works of fiction in which an architect is the main character, since most of them tend to offer rather less insight into architecture than do so many works that are about other kinds of people, and which approach the subject of architecture more obliquely.
Wright was not immune to his own attraction as a subject, and his Autobiography, if wildly hyperbolic and free and loose in its use of facts, is one of the most exciting books about architecture that you can read.
A Critical Biography and Philip Johnson: A list of books that every architect ought to read cannot consist entirely of guidebooks, novels, and biographies, of course. There are plenty of excellent architectural dictionaries and the like, and when you need to know the difference between a pilaster and a pediment, or what the Queen Anne style was, there is nothing better.
They are books every architect should have. But that is not the same as books every architect should read. What every architect should read are the books that ruminate about what architecture is and how it works, the books that make you think about it in another way, the books that tell you how the world has shaped architecture, and how architecture, in turn, has affected the world.
The greatest buildings, like art and music and literature, can be interpreted in multiple ways. They look different to you than they do to me, and they mean different things to you and me; they meant different things at different times in the past, and they will mean different things in the future.
The books every architect should read are the books that give you more than the information you can find in textbooks and dictionaries and style guides, useful and even, on occasion, entertaining as such books can be. The books I value most are the books that are personal, the books whose authors make you see things as you have never seen them before, the books whose prose strikes you as fresh no matter how many times you have read it before.
As it is hard to turn away from the allure of a well-composed facade—and why should you—I find that elegant prose about architecture exerts an equal pull.
Each of them loves words, and loves the connection between words and architecture. But they all teach us much about buildings and cities and community, and they do it in writing that is as appealing as the best of the architecture that they describe. He talks of the relative ease of keeping art, literature, and music alive, and then says: Like divorced wives they cost money to maintain.
They are often dreadfully in the way. And the protection of one may exact as much sacrifice from the community as the preservation of a thousand pictures, books or musical scores.
In their case only, we are brought face to face with decisions on values. And these values are complicated.Alpa Nawre, ASLA, assistant professor of landscape architecture, Kansas State University, called for landscape architects to focus their efforts on the developing world, where the bulk of the current population and most of .
Landscape: The Landscape Architecture of Rainer Schmidt by Thies Schroeder > City by Landscape documents the work of a landscape architect active in the interface between urban planning, open space planning and architecture. Mine is an extended essay on Space/landscape/politics that engages with the film, and the form of the film, as well as with the landscape, through the perspective of my own long engagement with concepts of .
Landscape architecture can play an integral role in mitigating the effects of climate change, and often acts as the first line of defense in protecting buildings from disasters.
Blue Dunes. Common Edge Podcast: Landscape Architecture in the Age of Climate Change. Essays; Landscape Architecture Can Help Save the World. some thoughts on the state of the Crescent City and why its future challenges have global implications. More. Posts about landscape essay written by LAM Staff.
Elizabeth Meyer, FASLA, the Merrill D. Peterson Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Virginia School of Architecture, will be at the ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture on March 9,