The Necessity for Ruins, and Other Topics

The Necessity for Ruins, and Other Topics

The Necessity for Ruins, and Other Topics

The Necessity for Ruins, and Other Topics

Excerpt

FOR MORE THAN twenty years I spent many months going from college to college to speak to groups of students about American countrysides and American towns and cities. I had travelled widely in the South and Midwest and Southwest, and I enjoyed telling a more or less captive public what I had seen and how I thought towns and countrysides had become the way they were. Very poor slides served to illustrate my remarks. If I remember rightly it was in the mid-fifties, at the University of California at Berkeley, that I began this itinerant career. I will always be grateful to the Department of Landscape Architecture at that university for the help and encouragement it gave me.

The talks became lectures, the lectures expanded into a course, which was eventually given several years in a row. I touched on roads and fields, on town and village layouts, on farms and factories and even places where games were played. I found myself increasingly interested in the history of those things and how they helped in the formation of communities. But there was finally the question of how to describe my topic: what was the common denominator of all these spaces and structures? What underlying theory or belief brought them together? Sometimes it was said that I lectured on The American Scene, or The American Habitat. Whenever I could, I objected to the use of the word environment . In the sixties, it will be recalled, the environmental movement was shrill and self-righteous, and I had no wish to be identified with it; and this is still the case. If nevertheless my course was labelled "Studies in the Man-made environment" (Harvard's phrase) I took pains to say that neither I nor the course was in any way concerned with . . .

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