Architecture and Nature: Creating the American Landscape
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Winner of the 2006 Alice Davis Hitchcock Award!
The word 'nature' comes from natura, Latin for birth - as do the words nation, native and innate. But nature and nation share more than a common root, they share a common history where one term has been used to define the other. In the United States, the relationship between nation and nature has been central to its colonial and post-colonial history, from the idea of the noble savage to the myth of the frontier. Narrated, painted and filmed, American landscapes have been central to the construction of a national identity.
Architecture and Nature presents an in-depth study of how changing ideas of what nature is and what it means for the country have been represented in buildings and landscapes over the past century.
“civilized peoples” of the continent. Black Elk saw this clearly when he said, “the white man has been making islands for us and for the four-legged, and the islands are getting smaller and smaller.”41 It seems that the idea of isolating the “Indian” on one side and “wilderness” on the other, each conﬁned to its own small territory, was too deep, too fundamental to Western culture to be questioned. As Timothy Mitchell 32 Exhibiting wilderness explains in his book on the 1889 Universal
that civilized men shared with animals the primordial instincts for survival. Consequently, natural passions and impulses began to be seen as a valued part of a man’s character. Contact with wilderness would develop and nourish the “natural man” or, in Theodore Roosevelt’s words, “make the wolf rise in a man’s heart”.106 57 Exhibiting wilderness The hunter is a “natural aristocrat” The ﬁgure of the hunter also proved useful to the Boone and Crockett Club in justifying the privilege of class
one hand, tourists who took pictures reinforced established aesthetic notions of how nature should look. But on the other, photography seemed to have played an important role in the constitution of tourists’ subjectivity.86 Photo albums stored in the Yellowstone Park archives serve as testimony that both are true. Many personal photographs collected in these scrapbooks replicated the dominant visual conceptions of the Yellowstone landscape; they show views already known. These snapshots were
another, these are “forms honest and direct and, as a result, beautiful.”66 At ﬁrst glance, the relation between a “stripped architecture” and “grace and beauty of excellent proportion” clearly calls on the Beaux Arts tradition in which students studied the male nude as an example of physical perfection. In architecture schools, like in ﬁne art schools of the nineteenth century, only male students were allowed to view and draw nude models from life, an essential prerequisite to appreciating
American Skyscraper, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1988. Perhaps the most famous of his textual studies in that vein is Roland Barthes, S/Z, translated by Richard Miller, New York: Hill and Wang, 1974. For a more abstract treatment, see his Image-Music-Text, translated by Steven Heath, New York: Hill and Wang, 1977. James S. Duncan, The City as Text: Politics of Landscape Interpretation in the Kandyan Kingdom, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990; James S. Duncan and Trevor J. Barnes, Writing