John Brinckerhoff Jackson declares in his book Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, “the American park after little more than a century, has lately fallen on evil days. We no longer love it was we did”(128). I do not agree with Jackson. He asks, “why have parks ignored [the] important social function: the integration of the young into the life of the community?”(129). While I understand that I am part of a generation that considers playing Wii Sports recreation, I think this withdraw from outdoor activity has pressured parks to cater events specifically to younger generations. New York for instance has the City Park Foundation that promotes free arts, sports, and education programs to empower the youth of the city to become more involved in the community. During the summer I frequent Central Park for the Summer Stage series. The park to me is viewed as a destination, an activity, an event. The “’picturesque’ natural beauty of the composition”(128) of a park is no longer the most important, the entertainment factor is.
Jackson may not be referring to Central Park however. He dismisses the belief that Olmsted was “an aristocratic Versailles estate landscaper, a notorious WASP in his social sympathies”(128) declaring, “Central Park from its first years was used by all classes”(128). This sense of equality in the park that continues today is intriguing. How can a park encompass the needs and wants of a city as economically and socially diverse as New York? Is the sense created in the design of the park? Or is the park a reflection of the progressive culture of New York?
While Jackson hopes the park “may eventually mature and give the word a wider and more contemporary meaning: the park as a public, open-air space where we can acquire self-awareness as members of society and awareness of our private relationship to the natural environment”(130), I believe it already has. The design enhances but is not the experience of Central Park. The diverse functions of the park come directly from the needs and wants of its citizens.
- Space and Place, 65
While discussing the often-nebulous topic of human nature, J.B. Jackson presents both our needs to live in and interact with both other people and the natural world in order to form our identities. Not only we are gregarious, political creatures who need constant feedback and debate to support our own existence, but because we also happen to be “inhabitants of the earth, involved in the natural order and in a sense even part of it” (Jackson, 11) it is of necessity that we interact with the natural world as well, if we are to function: eating and clothing and housing ourselves.
I see this conflict at the core of the concept of environmental sociology, or the needs of man to be at once a member of society and a part of the natural environment. This conflict is a major theme of Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, and one I find very interesting. It reminds me of what Yi-Fu Tuan describes as the conflict between our need for place (other people, a sense of security) and our craving for space (freedom, solitary time). Another way of looking at this dichotomy is the sociological perspective of symbolic interactionism. I see the tension that Jackson perceives between man as political animal and inhabitant of the earth as a tension between G.H. Mead’s proposed “I” and “Me.” The I is the solitary subject, a member of Jackson's inhabited world, and the Me is the object seen by others, or man functioning in the political landscape of other men. “Crowding is an awareness that one is observed," writes Tuan on page 60 of Space and Place. And crowding is one of those phenomena that I don't think Jackson really ever challenges as a possibly negative thing.
I think that Jackson would disagree with my application of symbolic interactionism onto the tension between his two ideal landscapes. What is especially fascinating about Jackson's approach is that does not associate open space with aloneness, per se. For Jackson, how to experience the natural world often runs contradictory to conventional wisdom about relating to nature (the more typically Thoreauian ideal of running away to the woods). “It is a romantic error to suppose that [the experience of the natural world] should be solitary,” he writes in “A Pair of Ideal Landscapes” (Jackson, 12). I found that Jackson and Yi-Fu Tuan are many times at odds when it comes to the benefits of being alone. Jackson is very much against the idea that the landscape as something far removed from us that we have to go into alone to experience fully. According to Jackson, “we are prone to exaggerate the consequences of this alienation and loss of visibility,” that comes with the process of urbanization as we know it: as the myth goes, people move from farms to towns to cities, they become supercrowded, and their connection with the landscape becomes more alien and less visible. As a result, their processes of identity formation suffer. Jackson presents an “entirely new relationship to the environment” which has evolved counter to this romantic ideal, where human beings are able to find new, rewarding identities out of these crowded ball parks, superhighways, and beaches.
While reading and absorbing this, my main objection was: as you are around others, you must constantly perform yourself, must always be looking after your Me. So how can man function in the natural environment and form a true identity if he never takes off alone into the woods, so to speak? On page 59 of Space and Place, Tuan writes, “Solitude is a condition for acquiring a sense of immensity. Alone one’s thoughts wander freely over space. In the presence of others they are pulled back by an awareness of other personalities who project their own worlds onto the same area.” I feel something inauthentic about the idea that a person may find a fulfilling identity in these crowds. So, is it impossible to really create place without the deep inward reflection that Tuan calls for? And if so, is the solution always going to be lonely places?
I believe this response is what we call the political climate. The political climate, always in flux, is how we communicate with the political landscape. It is the exchange of opinions. The political climate behaves just like our atmosphere: the perpetual exchange of gaseous bodies above the Earth interact, agitate and precipitate profound changes in terrestrial forms. Climate change changes inhabited landscapes just as political climates effect change in political landscapes.
Although Jackson does not use the term “public sphere,” he describes it in his discussion of the Athenian agora and the Parisian saloon as manifestations of spaces of public dialogue – spaces designed for the intermingling of ideas. Jurgen Habermas writes in depth on these historical examples in his Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. He claims that spaces of public discussion are what create political movements. He uses the saloon and the agora to exemplify spaces filled with people filled with ideas. The public sphere is how we derive a sense of place in any given political climate. If the political climate is the response to the political landscape, the public sphere is the response to the political climate. Although romanticized by some, the public sphere at its best situates our ideas among others in a constructive dialogue. It is a vast democraticizer. Habermas also asserts that the existence of a powerful public sphere is what changes the political climate most dramatically. But Habermas laments in the contemporary dissolution of the public sphere as a result of modern life. We don’t sit around and talk about ideas as much as we used to. Where Habermas and Jackson intersect is that one of the reasons for this degradation of political involvement is due to an absence of the proper space to facilitate it.
Boundaries through history have been both spoken of and physical. Some of the most famous physical boundaries have been the Berlin Wall, the walled city of the Vatican, the Great Wall of China, and the West Bank that divides Israel and Palestine. These boundaries are simply walls that are built right at the transition between two places. Jackson points this out, “A nation, we say, is not simply a collection of people, it is also the territory they occupy, and the boundary in consequence should be drawn so that the two entities correspond as closely as possible” (14).
These famous boundaries have been the sites of major conflict throughout the years. Boundaries, however, were made in order to keep nations separate. “Even the city states of Classical Greece possessed boundaries meant to isolate and protect, and when possible to prevent contact (14). Jackson continues to stress this, traditional political landscapes were created to “isolate and protect something within it. It was not so much a skin as it was a packaging, an envelope” (14).
Jackson states that Frost was correct in saying “boundaries stabilize social relationships. They make residents out of the homeless, neighbors out of strangers, strangers out of enemies” (15). I am hesitant to believe Frost’s claim. Some of the most famous conflicts have happened because of strict borders. People are angered and frustrated when limitations are placed on them. Some people find it thrilling to trespass and break boundaries. The presence of walls and fences is almost an invitation for people to try to break them down.
Towards the end of the chapter, Jackson seems to acknowledge this. “On an individual scale we are beginning to suspect that walls and fences are a costly nuisance to build and maintain, occupy much space, and far from guaranteeing privacy, actually invite vandalism and intrusion (16). He recognizes the cons of boundaries on a small scale, but what about how they affect whole nations and governments? Boundaries are made to inspire peaceful living, but their presence seems to be just an invitation for conflict.
I found Jackson's detailed history and discussion of the word landscape in his chapter The Word Itself a bit dull and overall unnecessary though his use of the word vernacular in the chapter titled Vernacular had just the opposite effect. Jackson attributes the vernacular to the mundane everyday places and objects found in the American landscape that the normal person overlooks and more often than not disregards as ugly. While these places may not be created without a design concept in mind they can often turn out beautiful because of their simple and honest relationship of form meets function. The practical utilitarian design of the “vernacular dwelling is designed by a craftsman, not an architect”(85). At first, as Jackson suggests, one might tend to favor the design of an architect, however with more thought you can come to realize there is a certain comfort and authenticity about the craftsman's work that cannot be replicated by an architect. In fact I feel the architect himself strives to recreate and imitate the work of the craftsman, often with unsatisfying results.
Granted this is passing a judgement but in my eyes the problem with the American landscape is not the strips, grids, or necessarily the urban sprawl but rather the copies and growing un-authenticity of the American home, town and overall design. As Jackson says America was a place to do what you want so it becomes a melting pot of clashing design, importing the tuscan villa, the minimalist Japanese home, or the english cottage. This is not a problem in itself but when overdone it could be argued the design imports can cause a loss of hometown character and a distorted sense of place. Think of the American home for instance, like the one in San Marino in the movie The Father of the Bride. The movies are constantly romanticizing the American dwelling, which is beautiful we must remember.The other day in class we watched the movie about a diner. It has such a strong sense of place because of its authenticity that can't be replicated and shouldn't.
Another point that particularly grabbed my attention was when Jackson talks about New York in his chapter A Pair of Ideal Landscapes: Forum Follows Function. He discusses the wide use public places in the city. Those places can feel special and offer “an agreeable environmental experience”(20). New York is a place that fosters a sense of comfort when walking down the streets, whereas in the normal American town it feels awkward and out of place to be walking down the street. America was made for the automobile which ruins the idea of walking places. In the city there is little choice.
The sense of vast open space that I felt while driving on I-70 was mirrored by the often empty streets that greeted me as I would walk through the cities in the morning. One particular morning, walking through Cleveland with my mother (she had come along for the ride), stands out in my mind. Searching for a place to eat breakfast, we walked for literally twenty minutes in what appeared to be the financial district – or rather formerfinancial district. In those twenty minutes, not a single person walked past us. Every single storefront was empty. We headed back to our hotel and drove to the college town where, as in every city we visited, we found an excellent café filled with at least one young woman reading a book by Vladimir Nabokov.
Though the similarities between the places I saw that summer have been floating through my mind ever since, it was not until I encountered John Brinckerhoff Jackson’s book, Discover the Vernacular Landscape, that I felt myself begin to try to understand those American cities I saw on the basis of something more than a theoretical model. His suggestion of how to appreciate the American landscape is a freeing one. He writes:
“The study and understanding of landscape metamorphosis can nowhere better be undertaken than in the contemporary United States, but it has to be undertaken in the proper frame of mind; and this is largely a matter of recognizing and accepting our national landscape for what it is: something very different from the European” (70).
What Jackson suggests is that before one can begin to make any claims as to what something is or how something is changing, they must first deeply accept the intrinsic patterns a place reveals. I find this suggestion helpful for more than just the study of manmade landscape.
[picture taken by me - outside the rock and roll hall of fame in cleveland, ohio - summer 2009]
I don’t remember the first postcard or leaflet NYU sent me, but the image of University life in Greenwich Village was exotic, and to one degree or another we all still share that image. But sometimes I’m surprised at how humdrum life @ NYU can feel. I guess I should blame ‘human nature. NYU, although it’s NYU, is an inhabited landscape as well as a political one.
Inhabited: coming to terms with nature, taking care of our personal needs; being part of a (the many) social orders. Inhabited spaces at NYU might be dining halls, dorms, the library; or speaking more broadly the campus as a whole might be inhabited space, if your ‘politics’ takes you elsewhere.
As human beings we are condemned to work out the definitions of right and wrong amongst ourselves. The methodology, epistemology, etc, that humans use to solve that conundrum is called politics. Public space is required for political action, necessitating that every “landscape evolved partly out of…the needs of men and women in their political guise.” (10)
Jackson gives us elements of the political landscape that (I assume) he means to be as timeless and universal as the political landscape itself: boundaries, public forums, and roads. He also gives it certain ‘universal qualities,’ namely visibility and sacredness.
Given these qualifiers we can point to an obvious political landscape at NYU made of classrooms, the park, Tisch Plaza, Guild Plaza; Kimmel student center. Space seems quite abundant.
Everything I’ve said thus far could have gleaned as much from the brochures, but it’s important to complicate the picture. Jackson gives a good start on page 12, writing: “No group sets out to create a landscape—but to create the community, and the landscape as its visible manifestation is simply the byproduct of people living and working, sometimes coming together, sometimes staying apart, but always recognizing their interdependence.” This is just as applicable to the heads of NYU (the planners, the administration, etc) as to Jackson’s Jeffersonian political landscape of like-minded groups forming frontier communities.
Last class we discussed how NYU created a sense of place. Those community-building activities are political from the very first instance, by defining a community that can use NYU’s resources, and creating a world for them. This NYU landscape is partially the results of these efforts, based on a conception of what the student is. My impression of their impression is as follows:
The ‘Student’ community displaces local residents, businesses*, and itself. For structural reasons the community in and of itself is slack; its parks and spaces are for passive enjoyment, to give momentary pleasure and a sense of well being; “other people more often than not in this fleeting urban space seems to mean voices and color and fleeing impressions.” (20) Students are essentially apolitical on campus vis-à-vis the university itself: discourse remains within the classroom, action travels out to NYC or to foreign lands where students are seemingly more empowered, but politics does not to cross the Rubicon. This is an extreme vision, and I’d probably temper it down a bit if there were time. But there is a certain hegemonic ideology of empty space present “in every square” as Jackson writes.
It seems to me that underneath Jackson’s ‘death of the political landscape’ narrative was knowledge that the sphere of the traditional properly political was breaking open. Modern processes had destroyed the communities that enabled such places; we present in this “new chapter” (20) are just beginning to take advantage of a landscape that has “ the undreamed of potential for public spaces of an infinite variety.” (20) The college campus is one of these spaces: “I am thinking of how the role of college campuses has changed, even in my own day. A half century ago it was a jealously guarded academic grove…now it plays a leading role in the cultural life of all classes in the community.” Jackson, (20). But I wonder how open to the community college campuses are—are we an oasis welcoming the thirsty, or are we jealously guarded. And is NYU an exception to the rule, or the now-becoming rule itself?
TBNYU never published anything without the consent of its members, so I can only give my own impressions of what it was about. Jackson reminds us that landscapes, though real, are human creations and thus can be narrated in more than one way. TBNYU made no distinction between the political and inhabiting subject. All spaces were to have an agora-like character—in this way we would create an image of ourselves through creative discourse. Thus I think it would be a mistake to characterize TBNYU v. NYU as a war between proponents of an inhabited and a political landscape; it was war between two different landscapes.
Relationships are inherently connected in our various landscapes. Jackson describes a vernacular landscape as distinctly involving time and space to emphasize personal relationships and the traditions within the community (150). If our modern community is concerned with human relationships, the spaces in which we live are in turn indicative of personal relationships. Yet, Jackson notes that he is “bewildered by the proliferation of spaces” and “bewildered by our casual use of space” in our modern landscape (154). If a church is used as a discotheque, it simply means that the community who uses the space has changed, in turn causing the space to be used in a different way. Spaces, like humans, find identity in the relationships they maintain with people. Traditions within a community, as well as traditionally used spaces, are subject to change due to human behavior or emotion. With Jackson’s understanding of the vernacular landscape, it is surprising that he did not also acknowledge the similarities in organization between the vernacular landscape and Landscape Three.
Furthermore, ‘vernacular cultures’ and Landscape Three also share in the concept of place and personal identity. Jackson references ‘vernacular culture’ as not needing laws or politics, as life was dependent on tradition. Within the vernacular landscape, identity was found through membership in a “group or super-family,” instead of through land possession (149). Similarly, the relationships in Landscape Three are permeable, meaning that people are easily accepted and communities are easily built, allowing for the group behavior of those classified as a part of ‘vernacular cultures’ (156). The ease of belonging one experiences in Landscape Three can be derived from personal identification with a space or place. Many people find elements of identity in the spaces with which they surround themselves. For example, a person living in New York may define himself or herself as a ‘New Yorker’ while a Miami resident might call himself or herself a ’beach person.’ While these adjectives may seem based on the physical characteristics of the places, they can also be derived from the specific relationship that a person who lives in that geographic location has to other people within the same city. A ‘New Yorker’ could refer to someone who purchases their morning coffee from a street vendor and the term ‘beach person’ could be used to describe someone who plays beach volleyball with his or her college friends.
Jackson closes Discovering the Vernacular Landscape with the broad statement; “[a landscape] is really no more than a collection” (156). To specify to in accordance with my understanding, a landscape is really no more than a collection of relationships within a space and time. A landscape defined by a community of people who value relationships with each other and use the spaces within their settings accordingly.
The city itself is designed to grid out its endless locations as a sort of class system. Some roads are far superior to others: they command only the best architecture; house only the finest shops, businesses, restaurants, and homes. They command the highest prices to buy, rent, and lease. They are maintained much more vigorously than other streets as a way adding the their luster. There is a very distinct difference between walking up Avenue A and walking up Madison Avenue. These beacons, if you will of spatial prowess are meant very purposefully to distinguish place. As Jackson writes of historically important roads, “[c]ertain important highways were meant primarily for the exercise of sovereign authority and to maintain order”(24). I see the exact same thing is happening here in New York.
For the most part, the roads of stature in New York have no significant geographical or resourceful significance that would mandate certain roads be more prominent than others. For the most part, the roads existed, and one business, event, building, etc. sprang up and the prestige grew around it. But much of the prestige develops due to our nature to define places within larger spaces. Even though one could argue that Manhattan is a composite of millions of places, for each person, the list of places is different and therefore there are many spaces in New York, undefined and unimportant to us. The “[d]ifferences in spatial organization are largely a matter of how we happen to classify things and occupations and people, and separate them” (28) – in Manhattan it is very often by street.
If someone tells you they live on uptown on Fifth Avenue, you immediately assume so much about them. In Midtown, on the same street, the assumption could be very different. Now I don’t hold much faith in assumptions themselves, but their nature is very revealing in how we as New Yorkers view place in relation to our urban landscape. As Jackson writes about Rome, one could also write about Manhattan, that the “road system [helps] maintain [the] identity” (27) the meaning of the different parts of the city and the people and/or places in them. As Jackson suggests, “we like to put our roots down and to belong to a certain spot” (27). We belong to the roads that define us in New York, and we expect others to do the same. You are where you are. We are literally corned off, sectioned off into a category based on the place we call home (or even the place we call a more temporal place of rest). By making a conscious choice to associate with a road, sectioned off by two other boundary roads, we are consciously or subconsciously choosing to conform to the definition commonly associated with that place.
Jackson concludes a thought on the matter by stating:
“we run across these signs: boundaries, roads, and places of assembly. We read them at once, and we not only read them, we create them ourselves, almost without realizing that without them we could not function a members of society” (27)
As Manhattanites, we are always conscious of roads and avenues that define neighborhoods, business, and groups. We expect them to define the city each other. As functioning members of the New York society, our whole system of direction (both physical and social) would be off without the roads to define them.
Jackson writes, “and I still find myself wondering if there is not always some deep similarity between the way war organizes space and movement and the way contemporary society organizes them; that is, if the military landscape and the military society are not both in essence intensified versions of the peacetime landscape, intensified and vitalized by one overriding purpose which, of necessity, bring about a closer relationship between man and environment and between men”(135).
This quote is somewhat discomforting at first, as I think most people would not hope for war to define their every day lives. However, we can draw some similarities between a cultural landscape in peace and at war. There is always in society a struggle for progress and a great effort to achieve and maintain order. War has this effect on what Jackson calls the political landscape, in a similar but much more direct and excited way than a peaceful landscape does.
This is where I think Benjamin’s article fits in to define the role of technology in relation to war and defining our political landscape. He writes “war is beautiful because it creates new architecture, like that of the big tanks, the geometrical formation flights…” The reader recognizes that Benjamin does not think the aspect of destruction in war is beautiful, as he later notes that the damage of war occurs because of man’s misuse of the process of production, but the idea is there in both Jackson’s and Benjamin’s writing that war creates an order of things, albeit forced, and often both produces and is aided by technological advancements.
“The destructiveness of war furnishes proof that society has not been mature enough to incorporate technology as its organ” another quote from Benjamin explains how we have allowed technology to define our landscape, instead of using it to develop something better. Since these texts were written technology has played an even larger role in shaping society and it seems we have lost more control over our own vernacular landscape.
Pervasive in J.B. Jackson’s Discovering the Vernacular Landscape is his penchant for the natural qualities that make up a landscape. His disdain for the current generation of environmental designers is made clear throughout, as is his wariness of some contemporary architecture (that which favors form over function). He seems to be most interested in the innate qualities of a space, and how these qualities can dictate or influence the human act (according to Jackson) of organizing and creating landscape.
In Habitat and Habit, part of his larger essay, A Pair of Ideal Landscapes, Jackson looks at our “close, never-ceasing relationship with the environment” (53). He talks of a place’s character, defined by the habits and customs that have been cultivated by natives in conjunction with the place’s attributes. He goes on to talk about how the ancient farmer depended only on his five senses before eventually uncovering a “human role.” Jackson explains:
“In short, he was no longer to be a drudge, blindly following routines rom the past, he was to be a guardian, a teacher, a helper. In the old sense of the word, the farmer undertook to improve his land, to bring it to its natural perfection, and this required of him that he learn to recognize the invisible potential of soils and animals and plans, the landscape of universal law instead of the landscape of local custom” (54-5)
Although perhaps not completely parallel, the first thing that came to mind after reading this was Martin Heidegger’s essay, The Origin of the Work of Art.” In it, he investigates what he considers to be the three components of art–art itself, the artist, and the artwork–and their relationship to one another as far as how one emerges from and responds to the other. He talks of an openness, a “resoluteness”, in which man opens himself up to a work, allowing the work to express what it will and the man to preserve it.
Toward the end of the essay the are two passages which seem especially relevant to Jackson’s farmer example and his philosophy as a whole:
“Art lets truth originate. Art, founding preserving, is the spring that leaps to the truth of what is, in the work. To originate something by a leap, to bring something into being from out of the source of its nature is a founding leap–this is what the word origin means.”
“The origin of the work of art–that is, the origin of both the creators and the preservers, which is to say of a people’s historical existence, is art. This is so because art is by nature an origin: a distinctive way in which truth comes into being, that is, becomes historical” (75).
An artist and art work, Heidegger explains, bring about art, an origin, just as the farmer nurtures and responds to the land to bring about bountiful and healthy crop. This bringing something into being that Heidegger describes seems to be exactly what Jackson expresses the need for in designing a landscape.
Jackson’s chapter, “A Pair of Ideal Landscapes,” was especially interesting; by observing history, he was able to identify for us two different types of landscapes: one reflecting the importance of political infrastructure and permanence and the other showing the mystical connection we have with the environment as natural ever-changing and moving actors within the landscape.
He returns to these landscapes in his last chapter, “Concluding with Landscapes,” and presents to us a third landscape that is essentially a balance of the other two. I found myself drawn to Jackson’s assertions regarding this third landscape because of their applicability to many people's views on our environment.
Much of our country's current landscape reinforces the political infrastructure of our society. The way that we have arranged our space throughout history encourages the idea of societal participation. What is probably a less prominent feeling in people is that indescribable connection to our environment, the feeling that we are not simply manipulators of the landscape but are actually parts of a greater whole. It is not often that many of us come across any spatial features that reinforce this feeling within us in the same way that roads or monuments remind us of our connection to the rest of society.
As Jackson points out, both of these landscapes are necessary in their own way, but what is most important is that we find a balance between the two. The world that existed when Jackson wrote this book is very different from the world in which we live now; it is perhaps more important at this present moment to find a balance between these existing landscapes because of the many environmental issues with which we are constantly struggling.
He finally concludes with a clarified and more nuanced definition of “landscape”: “[L]andscape is not a scenery, it is not a political unit; it is really no more than a collection, a system of man-made spaces on the surface of the earth….We create them and need them because every landscape is the place where we establish our human organization of space and time.” (156)
Jackson emphasizes the fact that we are the ones who organize our space to serve a specific purpose that benefits us, and so, it is only in changing ourselves and the way that we perceive our environment that we may create that perfect balance, that third landscape, which will perhaps help us achieve better relationships amongst ourselves and with our natural environment.
Jackson spends some time discussing the original meaning of the word “landscape”. In the concluding chapters he discusses how noblemen and clergy would look at the word landscape as a measurable space. “a merely vernacular or peasant term describing a cluster of small, temporary, crudely measured spaces which frequently changed hands and even changed in shape and size.” (149.) They used the landscape to measure how much power they had over the land.
I think that Jackson’s analysis on how the noblemen viewed the land can apply to a much bigger audience. Many people use their landscape to measure how much power they have. My hometown for example is sectioned off according to wealth. The middle classes houses are in developments where as a few streets down the houses seem to change in shape and size to something of lower quality. Although I come from middle class I would say that I (as well as most of my community) perceive my hometown similarly to how the noblemen viewed the land.
My opinion of New York City as a landscape has dramatically changed over the last several years. Before I became a student at New York University, I perceived the city as an inmeasurable space, a landscape unknown and scary. I did not see it as a noblemen, I could not identify the clusters of measurable spaces. But as I began my day to day routine in the city the landscape started to become more familiar, and I fit myself into a groove that caused my perception of the landscape to become more known, more measurable. I feel that everyone must view landscapes in a similar matter. The land is inmeasurable until it becomes familiar. “Landscape must have been a word much used by villagers and peasants and farmlands, it describes their own small world” (148). It is not until the land becomes familiar territory that one can view his or her landscape like the noblemen and clergy did. For example as I become more familiar with my world in New York City, I would describe it as a crudely measured space that is frequently changing in shape and size.
Like the regionalist writer Mary Austin, Jackson identifies a dual identity within one’s human nature. There is the individual, personal identity and there is that which identifies with a larger group or community that is tied to a particular place. In addressing the first part of our human nature Jackson writes, “we have to come to terms with nature if we are to survive. We have to understand nature and feel at home with it if we are to be true inhabitants of the earth” (11). Additionally, “none of us, no matter how self-reliant we may be, can survive alone for any extended length of time…there comes a moment when we begin to suffer psychologically and even physically, for the companionship of others” (11). American novels and short stories like Jack London’s Call of the Wild and “To Build a Fire” would attest to this need for community. In a more recent account, John Krakauer’s Into the Wild, which tells the real-life story of Christopher McCandless’s attempt to live alone in the wilderness of Alaska, argues the same point.
As part of our human nature, according to Jackson, we also need boundaries in our contemporary landscape, as they stabilize any social relationship. He writes, “Wherever we go in the contemporary landscape we run across these signs: boundaries, roads, and places of assembly. We read them at once, and we not only read them, we create them ourselves, almost without realizing that without them we could not function as members of society” (27). And it is true from the meager examples above which are better explained and almost ad nauseam by Jackson that community is a huge part of how we understand landscape and develop a sense of place. When one tries to deny this aspect of our human nature, disaster ensues.
Recently, as Jackson explains, artists and land architects have evolved away from old terminology and now use various words (land, space, environment) to define their work areas. Physical “landscapes” have been replaced by living/working/existing spaces. This makes sense if we compare painting and physical space. A majority of people staring at a painting of an outdoor scene would probably define it with the use of the word landscape. In modern culture, paintings tend to have a reputation of being dull and uninteresting. Why, then, would land architects want to equate their grand works of physical space with static and lifeless paintings? These individuals are hired to create a specific area and an accompanying mood, so one can see why these architects would want to distance themselves from the not so interesting term landscape.
The word landscape can also be used in a nonliteral sense. It is now quite commonly used metaphorically, “Thus we find mention of the ‘landscape of a poet’s images,’ ‘the landscape of dreams,’ or ‘landscape as antagonist’ or ‘the landscape of thought,’ or on a different level, the ‘political landscape of the NATO conference,’ the ‘patronage landscape’ (4). In this sense, the term landscape is used to identify a particular environment and can be used like the similar term “atmosphere,” although Jackson objects to this use based on his idea that a landscape is a concrete reality (5).