A Sense of Place, a Sense of Time

John Brinckerhoff Jackson

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February 21, 1996
224 pages, 5 3/4 x 8 1/2
62 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300063974
Paper

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J.B. Jackson, a pioneer in the field of landscape studies, here takes us on a tour of American landscapes past and present, showing how our surroundings reflect important changes in our culture.

Because we live in urban and industrial environments that are constantly evolving, says Jackson, time and movement are increasingly important to us and place and permanence are less so. We no longer gain a feeling of community from where we live or where we assemble but from common work hours, habits, and customs. Jackson examines the new vernacular landscape of trailers, parking lots, trucks, loading docks, and suburban garages, which all reflect this emphasis on mobility and transience; he redefines roads as scenes of work and leisure and social intercourse—as places, rather than as means of getting to places; he argues that public parks are now primarily for children, older people, and nature lovers, while more mobile or gregarious people seek recreation in shopping malls, in the street, and in sports arenas; he traces the development of dwellings in New Mexico from prehistoric Pueblo villages to mobile homes; and he criticizes the tendency of some environmentalists to venerate nature instead of interacting with it and learning to share it with others in temporary ways.

Written with his customary lucidity and elegance, this book reveals Jackson's passion for vernacular culture, his insights into a style of life that blurs the boundaries between work and leisure, between middle and working classes, and between public and private spaces.

John Brinckerhoff Jackson is the founder of Landscape magazine and has taught the history of the American landscape at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley. His most recent book, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, was acclaimed as "incisive and overpoweringly influential" (Thomas Hine, Philadelphia Inquirer).

"[Jackson] really admires the various signs of human initiative and creativity no matter how commonplace, and he delights in the ordinary interactions that take place between people and their surroundings. . . . This is Jackson at his best: lucid, provocative, iconoclastic, elegant."—Witold Rybcznski, New York Review of Books

"Mr. Jackson is at all times acutely observant and down to earth. This is one of the most interesting essay collections I have read in years, and it deserves a wide audience."—Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal

"Mr. Jackson is the contemplative explorer, distilling his trenchant observations in limpid, conversational prose."—Suzanne Stephens, New York Times Book Review

"Insightful meditations on our changing relationship to space, communities, and roads will startle some environmental purists but challenge the open minded to consider new ways of thinking about place."—Wilson Library Bulletin

"In the increasingly boring public discourse on the environment, Jackson breaks all molds. This godfather of American landscape studies combines the historian's long-view with a photographer's eye. His elegant and lucid voice of sanity is just as likely to be calling out from the parking garage as the wilderness."—Fodder

"This godfather of American landscape studies combines the historian's long view with a photographer's eye. His elegant and lucid voice of sanity is just as likely to be calling out from the parking garage as the wilderness."—Hungry Mind Review

Winner of the 1994 Spielvogel-Diamonstein Award for the best collection of essays published in 1994 given by the PEN American Center