The Last Landscape

The Last Landscape

The Last Landscape

The Last Landscape


The remaining corner of an old farm, unclaimed by developers. The brook squeezed between housing plans. Abandoned railroad lines. The stand of woods along an expanded highway. These are the outposts of what was once a larger pattern of forests and farms, the "last landscape." According to William H. Whyte, the place to work out the problems of our metropolitan areas is within those areas, not outside them. The age of unchecked expansion without consequence is over, but where there is waste and neglect there is opportunity. Our cities and suburbs are not jammed; they just look that way. There are in fact plenty of ways to use this existing space to the benefit of the community, and The Last Landscape provides a practical and timeless framework for making informed decisions about its use.

Called "the best study available on the problems of open space" by the New York Times when it first appeared in 1968, The Last Landscape introduced many cornerstone ideas for land conservation, urging all of us to make better use of the land that has survived amid suburban sprawl. Whyte's pioneering work on easements led to the passage of major open space statutes in many states, and his argument for using and linking green spaces, however small the areas may be, is a recommendation that has more currency today than ever before.


Tony Hiss

If you are approaching The Last Landscape for the first time, you are in for a treat and a revelation: It is, simply, the best book ever published about urban sprawl and how to make it a thing of the past. The Last Landscape is fresh, brimming with hope, and bristling with suggestions so practical you will want to start weaving them into your city or suburb or still-rural community this very day. Anything by William H. Whyte is also superb reading. Ideas come alive at his touch, and writing is witty, honest, warmhearted, and most un-textbook-y.

The Last Landscape has alternating paces, or cadences: Much of it is measured, honed, crisp, carefully distilled. Occasionally it goes bounding forward at a sudden leap to tell a story too good to miss or to call attention to something amazing or overlooked, some unlikely event that the rest of us have missed because we haven’t looked long enough, hard enough, often enough, or from just the right angle. Reading The Last Landscape is like going for a long, energizing walk straight through town and out into the country in the company of a wise, kindly friend who has brought along his eager, unstoppable puppy.

Yet whatever tone Whyte adopts, playful or polished, his words draw from a well of deep seriousness and urgency. There are more and more of us every day, is the undercurrent. There is only the same amount of land. We all deserve un-cramped, rewarding lives. We are all sustained by the planet’s beauty, by the health of its life and processes. Do you see the great opportunities? Here, for instance, are a dozen things people are already doing that their children will bless them for. Over there are . . .

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