Landscape in Sight

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Looking at America

John Brinckerhoff Jackson; Edited by Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz

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During a long and distinguished career, John Brinckerhoff Jackson (1909-1996) brought about a new understanding and appreciation of the American landscape. Hailed in 1995 by New York Times architectural critic Herbert Muschamp as "America’s greatest living writer on the forces that have shaped the land this nation occupies," Jackson founded Landscape Magazine in 1951, taught at Harvard University and the University of California at Berkeley, and wrote nearly 200 essays and reviews. This appealing anthology of his most important writings on the American landscape, illustrated with his own sketches and photographs, brings together Jackson’s most famous essays, significant but less well known writings, and articles that were originally published unsigned or under various pseudonyms. Jackson also completed a new essay for this volume, "Places for Fun and Games," a few months before his death.

Focusing not on nature but on landscape—land shaped by human presence—Jackson insists in his writings that the workaday world gives form to the essential American landscape. In the everyday places of the countryside and city, he discerns texts capable of revealing important truths about society and culture, present and past. For this collection Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz provides an introduction that discusses the larger body of Jackson’s writing and locates each of the selected essays within his oeuvre. She also includes a complete bibliography of Jackson’s writings.

Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz is professor of history and American studies at Smith College.

"This collection will be widely and positively read, not only because of the significance of Jackson's brilliant and original insights and his elegant writing style, but also because of Horowitz's excellent work in compilation, introduction, and subtle explanation."—Paul Groth

"A large and varied sampler of essays by the late doyen of American cultural geography. . . . Highly recommended for geographers and students of the American scene."—Kirkus Reviews

"Jackson saw the world with fresh eyes, and he helps us to see it too. That alone would make him a writer worth knowing. But by putting man back into the landscape, he has done something of real importance, readmitting us to paradise—wiser, more responsible and with a greater capacity for joy."—Robert Wilson, Civilization

"Horowitz makes the reader appreciate once again the dignity and affection Jackson brought to garages, supermarkets, cemeteries or the urban grid."—Patricia Leigh Brown, New York Times

"Very few men or women since the Renaissance can be said to have created a new branch of the liberal arts or humanities, Jackson is one of these."—A Dictionary of Landscape Architecture by Baker H. Morrow

"Jackson remains a model for civil discussion of architecture and the landscape."—Michael Leccese, Architecture

"[This book] contains several wonderful essays in what is best described as domestic anthropology, including a paean to mobile homes and an investigation of the humble garage. Vintage Jackson."—Witold Rybczynski, Lingua Franca

"Will endure as fine writing and as milestones of a nation becoming painfully and joyfully aware of itself."—Orion

"An important source of insight and inspiration."—Patrick Pynes, Western Historical Quarterly

"Landscape in Sight is not the first book to gather Jackson's insightful sketches of the American scene, but it is the best. Working in consultation with Jackson prior to his death in 1996, the editor has chosen more than three dozen pieces, mostly from Landscape, and has arranged them in several useful sections."—Wayne Franklin, Annals of Iowa

"This illustrated book includes some of Jackson's most highly regarded work. . . . This book will introduce his ideas to a new generation of readers who, somehow, may have missed his work."—Richard Francaviglia, Journal of the West

"[This book] will become known as the introductory text in scholarship about J. B. Jackson. . . . Professor Horowitz not only organizes for us the voluminous record of Jackson's works that span nearly the last half of the twentieth century, she introduces the anthology with a useful biographical sketch of Jackson's peripatetic life, liberal education, and broad exposure to both the European and American landscapes. . . . The essays, when combined with the thorough, chronological bibliography and an excellent index, create a reference which will find a useful place on landscape architects' bookshelves."—Richard K. Sutton, Landscape Journal

"Horowitz’s introduction combines clarity, narrative, and colorful detail—the subject’s own strengths as a writer. Jackson blended the cultural geographer’s eye with the novelist’s ear and the critics dart. Quietly iconoclastic, he lambasted Modern architecture as it was still ascendant. Years before Robert Venturi’s Learning from Las Vegas, he wrote appreciatively of the 1950s neon-clad strip. Both a patrician and a populist, Jackson could become as absorbed by the study of a Baroque town plan as he was by a city’s tenderloin district. Architects should study Jackson’s prose. He avoided jargon and abstractions, embraced observation and humor, and proffered fresh ideas that incited discourse, not controversy. Jackson remains a model for civil discussion of architecture and the landscape."—Michael Leccese, Architecture

"Horowitz’s compact yet thorough biographical essay completes this important volume for collections on landscape architecture, urban design, and American studies."—Paul Glassman, Library Journal

"Jackson saw the world with fresh eyes, and he helps us to see it too."—Robert Wilson, Civilization

"The writer J.B. Jackson viewed the terrain of everyday life through his own distinctive lens. . . . Makes the reader appreciate once again the dignity and affection Professor Jackson brought to garages, supermarkets, cemeteries or the urban grid."—Patricia Leigh Brown, New York Times

"Contains several wonderful essays in what is best described as domestic anthropology, including a paean to mobile homes and an investigation of the humble garage. Vintage Jackson."—Rochelle Gurstein, Professor of History at the Bard Graduate Center, Lingua Franca

"Jackson’s essays are carefully edited, satisfying and fun. He effectively parcels out bits and pieces of the immense body of American culture into comprehensible segments and, in the process, renders them fresh and quite wonderful."—Susan Wilcox, Washington Times

"Jackson's writings show the astonishing self-confidence, wit and range of reference one associates with earlier essayists like Samuel Johnson or Thomas Love Peacock."—Sally Muspratt, Journal of the New England Garden History

ISBN: 9780300071160
Publication Date: November 13, 1997
440 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
51 b/w illus.