Magazine article Geographical

Flatness

Magazine article Geographical

Flatness

Article excerpt

FLATNESS by BW Higman; Reaktion Books: [pounds sterling]16.95 (hardback)

BW Higman has a sixth sense: he sees flat surfaces. Be they screens, furniture, walls, streets, railways, or even level playing sports fields, he notes that 'flatness is at the centre of the everyday experience' even to the point where 'we hardly notice' it anymore, and see such surfaces as 'inevitable' or even 'natural'.

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A key premise of this book is to explore why flatness, a feature found rarely in nature, is something humans have tried hard to produce in civilisation. He argues 'today more than 50 million kilometres of roads dominate the daily movement of most of the world's people; and one million kilometres of railways link levelled croplands with architecturally planar cities.'

While the miles of concrete and asphalt are the 'Earth's new skin', he describes how flatness has become the human hallmark on most habitats. Forests are razed, swamps drained and beaches reinforced. …

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