Feb. 10th, 2010

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"Americans are like fish that can't see water. Although human life requires the constant support of complex surroundings, most people in the United States do not consciously notice their everyday environments. Universal schooling in science and dozens of television nature programs have begun to sensitize Americans to animals and ecosystems. Yet, even Americans with advanced degrees rarely have concepts for pondering, discussing, or evaluating their cultural environments. These people are in danger of being poor appreciators and managers of their surroundings."

Paul Groth, "Frameworks for Cultural Landscape Study," from the book Understanding Ordinary Landscapes, Groth & Bressi, editors.

For these purposes (and to quote Professor Groth again) the word "landscape" denotes "the interaction of people and place: a social group and its spaces, particularly the spaces to which the group belongs and from which its members derive some part of their shared identity and meaning."


As you might have guessed, I've decided to attempt to re-engage the part of my brain that thinks in terms of architecture's larger place in the city fabric. I've been largely housebound for the last year, and I need to allow the city to reassert itself on my thinking patters, even if only in an academic sense.

While I was at Berkeley I only managed to take one class with Professor Groth, but it was awesome. (I use his title not out of obligation, but respect. In class he had us call him Paul.) This was the oft-referenced Summer class, all day on Fridays. Seven hours of class in one day, but it was the least punishing, most enjoyable experience of my college career (undergrad or grad school) because each class was a day-long walking tour of some chunk of the Bay Area. And we looked at everything in our path. Ethnic churches of all stripes. Coffee houses. Apartments. Parks. Everything from monuments to hovels to suburban tract homes, and it all threaded together into a narrative we only barely began to explore by the end of the semester.

I need to get those eyes back. If I still can.

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