Hart 1995 - CHAPTER 3 23 John Fraser Hart JOHN FRASER HART...

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Unformatted text preview: CHAPTER 3 23 John Fraser Hart JOHN FRASER HART was born in 1924 in staunton, Virginia, and was raised in Virginia and Atlanta. He attended Hampden—Sydney College and the Uni- versity of Georgia Extension Division in Atlanta, received an AB. in classical Ian- guages from Emory University, studied geography at the University of Georgia, and completed a Ph.D. in geography at NorthWestern University. His honors in— clude a Citation for Meritorious Contri- butions to the Field of Geography from the Association of American Geogra— phers in 1969, an Award for the Teach— ing of Geography, College Level, from the National Council for Geographic Education in 1971, editorship of the An~ rials of the Association of American Ge- ographers from 1970 to 1975. president of the Association of American Geogra- phers from 1980 to 1981, and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Founda- tion Fellowship in 1982. lo 1984 Profes- sor Hart received a grant from the Com- monwealth Fund Frontiers of Science Book Program for the preparation of The Land That Feeds Us (Norton. 1991)r a book that won the 1992 J. E. Jackson Prize of the Association of American Geographers. His other books include The Southeastern United States (Van Nostrand, 1967.), The Look of the 'Land (Prentice-Hall, 1975), and Our Changing Cities, editor (Johns Hopkins, 1991'). He is, professor of geography at the Univer~ 5Ity of Minnesota. Reading the Landscape WE have to learn to read the landscape instead ofnierely learning to see it. —JOHN BRINCKERHOFF JACKSON QUEEN ELIZABETH I of England once said that she was “mere English.” I cheerfully admit that I am content to be a mere geographer, and I wish to claim no more. I am a- geographer be- cause I am fascinated by the complex diversity of the earth we inhabit. In simple terms, I might define geography as curiosity about places. Geographers have both the privilege and the duty of trying to understand and explain the distinctive character of places. The inevitable starting point for geography is the visible landscape, because it is the most obvious feature of any place, although of course we transcend. it almost immediately in our search for explanations. I am quite content with the simple vernacular definition of landscape as “the things we see,” and I am saddened by the way the meaning of the word has been transmogrified. Some people have endowed the concept of landscape with magical, mystical, or symbolic significance, or have loaded it with metaphysical con- notation. In some quarters the word even has been turned into a talisman, as though it were expected to bring good luck to anyone who uttered it. Many users have merely purloined part of the word. They have assumed, quite incorrectly, in my opinion, that the suffix scope in landscape is somehow related to the suffix scope (as in microscope and telescope), and they have committed such awk- ward neologisrns as cityscape, farmscape, roadscape, seascape, wildscape, windowscape, and the lilce(scape). Some users have treated a single facet of the landscape as though it were the whole. Geomorphologists, for example, have written about “landscape evolutioil” when they were concerned only with rocks and the features of the land surface. Some bota- nists and ecologists have used the word when they were interested primarily in plants and vegetation. The landscape of the architect seems to consist mainly of buildings, and often only of those buildings that are “polite.” 24 PARTI: BEGINNINGS W | Some people have used the word metaphorically, with re- i‘ sults that can be confusing. The “economic landscape” apparently is no more than a flat, uniform surface on which only markets matter, such as Merrill Lynch’s “landscape of investment,” but _ what is a “political landscape,” or a “demographic landscape,” or the “landscape of shirt features” advertised in the Lands” End cata- ‘u'l log, or the “landscape ofTV” the Associated Press natters about? The mind boggles at the very thought ofa “soil landscape,” which presumably would be of interest only to another earthworm. Confusion over the use of the term has been especially acute in geography, because the German word Landrrfmfi can mean ei— ther “landscape” or “region,” and some geographers have tried to have it both ways. At one time, in fact, some geographers argued that their discipline should be restricted to the study of land- scapes, although it is still unclear whether they were talking about what one sees, or about regions, or about both, or perhaps about something else altogether. One suspects they had not thought the matter through very carefully themselves, and the debate became terribly bogged down in mysticism and confusion. The experience should have made geographers especially gun—shy about the use of the word “landscape,” but nevertheless they have bandied it about in ways that surely would run afoul of any truth-in—advertising laws. Unfortunately the word has been mauled so many times by so many users in so many disciplines and art forms that it may well have lost much of its usefulness. Certainly it has no generally accepted technical definition, and each person who talks or writes about landscape has a very real Obligation to explain precisely what he or she means when using the word. I have already said I am content with the simple vernacular defi- nition of landscape as “the things we see.” Our perceptions may differ, but I doubt they differ all that much. You and I both see the same thing when we look at a skyscraper, or an elm tree, or the rear end of a bull. Our skills at reading what we see may dif— fer, to be sure, and what we see may well say different things to us. One person, for example, might see picturesque rocky cliffs, whereas another might see the Niagara dolomite outcropping in a cuestaform escarpment, and both would be right. But a few of the Deep Thinkers like to inform us that what we see is not what We see at all, and that reality is not really real. Hogwash. We need to learn to read the landscape, not just to see and react to it, but what we see is real, and no conceivable amount of sophistry can protect the Deep Thinkers from the reality of get- John Fraser Hart READING THE LANDSCAPE 25 part—mu ting spattered, not inappropriately, if they get too close to the rear end of that bull. We need to get out and look and see things for ourselves, because the primary source for studies of the landscape, oddly enough, is the landscape itself. I do not know 110w one learns to become a careful observer, so I am unable to teach the skill, but I know it is essential. We also need to learn to think analytically about what we have seen, and to identify the features of the landscape in terms that make sense to, and can be used by, others. Too many studies of landscape have to be taken on faith, because their authors can- not explain the criteria they used to identify the features they have described. We need to learn to talk to and listen to and learn. from the plain ordinary people who are the creators, the inhabitants, and the custodians of the landscape. We must know enough to ask reasonably intelligent questions, and, of even greater importance, to listen carefully to what they tell us. An old adage says that one is not going to learn very much while one’s mouth is open. Good fieldwork requires an open-ended kind of approach. In order to glean the occasional gem, one has to be willing to take the time to relax, to chew the fat and shoot the bull, to listen patiently to a lot of things in which one is not interested. In my time I have listened to far more hOInlllCS on politics and religion than 1 11am: really needed, but I have also learned a lot because I have been able torhear them out attentively, and then turn the conversation to subjects that interest me more. We can discover the aspirations and the needs and the values of ordinary people only by listening to them, because they rarely, reluctantly, and with painful effort put pen to paper. One can have little confidence in the work of secondhanders who seldom can be bothered to glance out of their windows, whose experience has been limited to the dusty stacks of the library, and who are hos- tage to the observations and ideas of others because they rely en— tirely on the printed page. The printed page undeniably is important. It enables us to visit unfamiliar landscapes vicariously, and to learn how others have seen and interpreted landscapes with which we are unfamil- iar, but far too many of us are far too willingto let others think for us. We must learn to believe what we see and to have confi- dence in our own observations, especially when they fly in the face of conventional wisdom and generally accepted theory. Most of us are intellectual cowards, and it is far easier to defer to authority than to risk sticking our necks out. We must develop the courage 26 PARTI: BEGINNINGS —"_fiwr_—___—_—_—.uw—.—____‘ A74r~~fi9¥fif>i¢~fim The recently installed Potomac Gas substation serves a new subdivision, Copperfield, a half-mile away in Jefferson, Maryland; the power lines are courtesy of Potomac and Edison. The View is from U.S. 340 looking southwest toward South Mountain near Harper's Ferry. Photographs by George F. Thompson, 1989. READING THE LANDSCAPE 27 to believe the evidence of our senses, and to let the facts speak for themselves, instead of trying to force our observations into some procrustean model of theory or conventional wisdom. The observer of landscape should try to see everything, but most landscapes and their histories are so complex and so varie- gated that they are virtually incomprehensible without careful analysis, and the person who tries to look at everything may wind up seeing nothing at all. We must be selective. At any given time we must concentrate on a few carefully chosen features, or types of features, and we must never allow ourselves to forget that the features on which we concentrate are related in various ways, 28 PARTI: BEGINNINGS some close and some not so close, to all the other features of the landscape. From time to time we must also consciously change our focus and concentrate on another set of features, in order to develop a feeling for the complete landscape. With time and ex- perience we should be able to develop a sixth sense that will alert us to interesting aspects of features other than those on which we are concentrating at the moment. It is logical, convenient, and defensible to group the features of the landscape into three broad categoriesianimal, vegetable, and mineral———to facilitate their analysis. The three principal compo- nents of any landscape are: (I) the landforms, or the features of the land surface; (2) the vegetation, or the plants that cover the surface; and (3) the structures that have been added by people. The human structures may be further subdivided into four categories: (3a) systems of land division; (3b) structures associated with the economy; (3c) house types; and (3d) agglomerations of houses into villages, towns, and cit- ies, with all of their associated features. In most parts of the world the aspect of the landscape that makes the most compelling first impression is the form ofthe land surface, whether mountains, hills, plains, or plateaus. The ob- server of landscape must have a good command of the basic prin- ciples of geomorphology in order to comprehend the character and origin of the major and minor forms of the earth’s surface. In addition to their role as features of the landscape, the landforms of an area usually are closely related to the kinds of plants that grow in the area and to the ways in which people can use the land. The second principal component of the landscape is the plants that cloak the surface of the earth. The observer of land- scape should be familiar with such concepts as natural vegetation, contact vegetation, climax vegetation, potential vegetation, and the problems inherent in each concept, but he or she is primarily interested in the real vegetation, which can be defined as the plants that are there now. The cover of trees, shrubs, grasses, and other plants is also an essential intermediary between the mineral and animal worlds. It is trite, but true, to say that animals (including the human va- riety) cannot eat rocks, and they would perish if they did not have READING THE LANDSCAPE 29 The Mayakka River, in Sarasota and Manatee counties in Florida, is a special place in which to see beautiful palmetto palm forests and a rich array of' waterfowl and wildlife, including good-sized alligators. Photograph by George F. Thompson, 1993. plants to convert the minerals of the earth’s crust into food they can use. Animals are mobile, and they are free to wander, but plants are sedentary, and they are firmly rooted in the soil. Ani- mals cannot live or roam too far from the places where the plants they need are available, or where they can be grown. All plants need heat, light, and water. The proper amounts vary from species to species. The requirements of the more im- portant plant species provide the basis for most classifications of climate, and the map of climatic regions looks very much like the map of vegetation zones. Within each climatic region, however, 30 PARTI: BEGINNINGS the vegetation varies in response to differences in elevation, slope, exposure, drainage, soil, and other environmental factors. The plants that grow naturally in an area probably are the best single indicator of its environmental potential, and pioneers in the United States used vegetation as a guide to tell them which land to settle and which land to avoid. Their knowledge is embed- ded in folk sayings such as “Maple land is good land, but pine land is poor lane,” and even today the observer of landscape should know how to read the vegetation, because it carries a clear message about the nature of the environment in which it grows. The vegetation also tells the tale of how people have used and abused the land. For example, most of the eastern United States was wooded when white settlers first saw it, but they cut down the trees and cleared the land so they could grow crops on it. Much of the land still remains in cultivation, but some was cleared unwisely, and those who once farmed it h ave allowed Old Mother Nature to foreclose her mortgage on it. They may be reluctant to admit they are no longer using the land effectively, but broomsedge, blackberry bushes, persimmon sprouts, cedar saplings, old field pines, and other plants send a clear signal that the land is no longer used for agriculture. The observer of land- scape should bc able to recognize the plants that invade and colo- nize unused agricultural land. 7 We should also be able to identify the principal cultivated crops, and should understand why they are grown and how they are used. A generation ago, for instance, a traveler in the Corn Belt of the American Middle West might have expected to see small, well-fenced fields of corn, oats, and alfalfa, which were grown in a regular rotation to provide feed for cattle and hogs. Today, however, the Middle West seems to have been turned into one vast field of corn and soybeans, both of which are sold for cash instead of being fed to livestock. Fences have been removed, fields have been enlarged, farmsteads have been transformed, and the entire rural landscape has been changed in response to changes in agricultural technology and economy. The fences, fields, farmsteads, and other structures added by people are the third principal component of the landscape. Every human structure serves some human need, and the form of the structure fairly faithfully reflects its function, or the need it was originally designed to serve. Form and function are more inti— mately related in some types of structures than in others. They are most closely related in simple, ordinary, workaday structures, such as barns, sheds, garages, and privies, that are necessary for daily living; they are most widely divorced in expensive, preten- tious, ornamental, showplace structures, such as houses, and that READING THE LANDSCAPE 31 is why the study of house types is so extraordinarily complex, difficult, and usually unsatisfactory. I prefer to invoke function to explain as much of the built landscape as possible, but, of course, the form and appearance of the human structures in any area may also be influenced by many other considerations, including the nature of the physical environ- ment, the level of economic prosperity, the technical competence of the builders, the date of construction, the cultural baggage of the people, aesthetic and symbolic motives, and the personal whims and idiosyncrasies of the owner. Ordinary vernacular structures normally are built of what- ever material comes most readily to hand, and as a consequence they often reflect the natural physical environment, which pro- vides the stuff that people have to work with. Take fences, for example. In the eastern United States, which was a wooded area, most of the early settlers put up zigzag fences of rails split from trees they had cleared from the land, but stone walls were more common in the stony, glaciated areas of New England and in areas where the limestone bedrock formed natural flagstones. On the sandy soils of the cutover lands of northern Michigan, Min- nesota, and Wisconsin, farmers uprooted the tree stumps left by lumbermen and tipped them on their sides to make picturesque stump fences. The treeless prairies of the continental interior were not as much of a deterrent to settlement as some people have supposed, but settlers who had come from wooded areas-did have to scratch around a bit to find substitutes for wood for fuel, for building materials, and for fencing. They experimented with live hedge- rows before the invention of barbed wire facilitated the expansion of settlement westward across the grasslands. 4 The availability of barbed wire, which was made in distant factories and had to be shipped to the grasslands at no small ex- pense, suggests how the level of economic prosperity in an area can influence the form and appearance of its human structures. Building materials for ordinary structures are not normally trans~ ported any great distance, but a prosperous area can afford to ship in materials that a less prosperous area could not afford. Steady improvements in the technology of transport also have enabled many areas to import building materials from ever greater dis- tances, and in the United States today few distinctive building materials are derived directly from the resources of the local physi- cal environment. The technical competence of the people who built them can also influence the form and appearance of human structures. Barn roofs illustrate the importance of technical skill. Almost any good 32 PARTI: BEGINNINGS Casa Grande (Big House) was built by the Hohokam in circa 13007 1320 in the Gila River valley, southeast of present-day Phoenix, near Coolidge, Arizona. The remarkable group of buildings was "discovered" in 1694 by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, a Jesuit missionary, who described it as "a four-story building as large as a castle and equal to the finest church in the lands of Sonora." The building material is caliche, a hard local subsoil that today erodes easily; to protect the ruins from rain, the National Park Service erected a steel canopy. The upper floors, long gone, were made of logs, presumably floated down the Gila from the San Francisco and Mogollan mountains in southwestern New Mexico. Casa Grande was abandoned in about 1450; it was set aside by the nation in 1889 and became a national monument in 1918. Photographs by George F. Thompson, 1988. READING THELAND'SCAPE 33 carpenter can put up a straight (gable) roof, A , but straight roofs may be inefl’icient, because the loft space under the eaves is cramped, and it requires much bending, stooping, and head- bumping. Gambrel roofs, [A , with gentle upper sections and steep lower sections, permit easier access to the space under the eaves, but building them demands greater skill, and arched (gothic) roofs, a , which are even more efficient, are also the most difficult to build. It appears that most barns in the Middle West in the nineteenth century had straight roofs, but gambrel roofs gradually became more common as carpenters learned how to build them, and many barns built since the Depression have had arched roofs whose principal structural members have been bought prefabricated at the local lumber yard. The date of construction, therefore, may affect the form and appearance of 'a building, both because improvements in tech— nology over the years have given builders greater leeway and be- ...__. _. _______.._ _... .. argumwzfg . ._ .- ‘ 34 PARTI: BEGINNINGS cause the style of a building may reflect the changing fads and fancies ofeurrent fashion. House types are a good illustration. In the American colonies before the Revolutionary War, buildings were patterned after models in the home country, and the austere elegance of the formal Georgian style was high fashion. After the Revolution the young republic turned for its model to ancient Greece, the cradle of democracy, and the white pillars and porti- coes of Greek temples were copied in the Greek Revival style in the latter part of the nineteenth century, to be replaced in turn by the California bungalow of the interwar years and the no- nonsense functionalism of the ranch style and split«level ramblers since World War II. The cultural baggage of a group may affect the form and appearance of its structures, because different groups of people have their own distinctive ideas about how particular types of buildings should look. Some cultural geographers, in fact, have argued that house types are among the best indicators of cultural diffusion. A good example of a type of building that is associated with a particular cultural group is the Pennsylvania German barn, a massive two—level structure with a barn bank, or ramp, on one side and a forebay sticking out over the stockyard on the other: German farmers from southeastern Pennsylvania carried the idea of this barn with them when they migrated westward, and they built such barns wherever they settled. The Pennsylvania German barn was unnecessarily elaborate for the farming system that developed in the Corn Belt, however, and most non-German farmers in the Middle West preferred to build simpler feeder barns of the type that had originated in the Great Valley of north- eastern Tennessee, but German farmers persisted in building barns of the familiar type. Aesthetic and symbolic considerations undoubtedly affect the form and appearance of many human structures, but it is easy to assign too much importance to them. Most people are moti- vated by functional, not aesthetic, considerations when they erect a structure, and most ordinary human structures must be under— stood in terms of their functions. They are not intended as works of art, and any artistic quality they may happen to possess is un- conscious, accidental, and incidental. People do not intentionally erect structures that are ugly, of course, but neither do they erect structures because they are beautiful; they erect them because they need them, and not because they will beautify the landscape and make aesthetes happy. Most of us would like to live in a fine house, drive a fancy ear, and wear the latest fashions, but few of us can afford the luxury of style, and the way we actually live is a compromise be- John Fraser Hart READING THE LANDSCAPE 35 m Suburban Chicago. Photograph by Bob The“, 1992. tween our desires and our income. We like beauty—even though our perceptions of what is beautiful may not agree with the per- ceptions of others—but we are compelled to balance our desire for beauty against the dictates of our pocketbooks. Each of us harbors notions of rightness and propriety about the way things ought to be, and we try to implement our ideals, but we cannot always afford to do so. We do the best we can with what we have, and the results sometimes are quite handsome, but sometimes less so, and not everyone agrees about what is handsome. Some people, for example, like statues of pink flamingos, deer, and jockey boys in their front yards, whereas others prefer boxwood hedges, carpets of juniper, and brick walkways, and each is aghast at the awful taste of the other group. 36 PARTI‘. BEGINNINGS ;."’ saw Every August nearly 60,000 people attend the Clarke County Fair in Berryville, Virginia, the county seat. Photograph by George F. Thompson, 1987. We must try to understand the human structures on the landscape in terms of their creators, inhabitants, and custodians, and in terms of the things with which these people are comfort- able. For example, take Clarence Magnus’s farmstead southeast of Slayton, Minnesota. The two—story white farmhouse sits at the back of a neatly manicured lawn, with enough trees to provide welcome relief from the scorching summer sun. Gleaming metal sheds and grain bins encircle the clean gravel farmyard back of the house. At the far corner, next to three cylindrical concrete silos, is a handsome 01d barn from which the white paint has started to fleck. Southeast of the farmhouse, and hidden from it by a high hedge, but clearly visible from the highway, is a tatterdemalion collection of disc plows, chisel plows, field cultivators, stalk chop— pets, grain angers, wagons, and other equipment, all overgrown E READING THE LANDSCAPE 37 with weeds and apparently rusting away. At first glance it looks like a scrap-metal dealer’s paradise, but when you take a closer look it is not nearly as unkempt and disorganized as it appears to the motorist speeding past on the highway. Clarence is a splendid manager, and he carefully oiled each piece of equipment and gave it a protective coat of grease before he put it in the lot. His existing buildings simply do not have enough room to house all of the new machinery he needs to con- duct a modern farm operation, and he has to leave some of his equipment outside, mostly the cheaper and hardier pieces, Does he need a new machine shed? Of course he does, and he will tell you so himself. He will also tell you, to the penny, what it will cost, including interest and the increase in his taxes because of what the new machine shed will .do to the assessed valuation of his farm. Clarence needs a new machine shed, but right now he can’t afford it. One of these years he is going to get a good price for his corn or his beans or his beef cattle, and that’s when he is going to build himself one. It will be a hulking metal alfair, probably gleaming white with green trim. Aesthetes will Consider it an eye- sore, and Clarence quite frankly doesn’t give a hoot whether some college professor or historic preservation oflicer happens to con- sider it an eyesore, because it is going to make his farm more efficient and his life easier. , Fred Kniffen, the cultural geographer, once remarked that no one is ever going to be able to wax sentimental over those ugly metal structures that are popping up all over the place. I disagreed with him then, and I still do. It probably will not happen in our lifetimes, and it is unlikely to happen until they have become old and rare, but eventually they will become old and rare, and then they will become precious. Everyone laughed at me back in the 194-08 when I predicted we would live to see the formation of a Society for the Preservation of Victorian Monstrosities. Today everyone is far too busy snapping them up and stripping them and refinishing them and gentrifying them to have time to laugh at me any more. I am prepared to make the same prediction for Clarence Magnus’s new metal machine shed, the one that hasn’t even been built. One of these days it will be added to the National Register of Historic Places, but, of course, neither you nor I will ‘ be around long enough to find out whether my prediction will come true. The real eyesore 0n the farm, as far as Clarence is concerned, is the barn, a fine old structure of white-painted wood, with a roof of cedar shingles that the years have gradually turned gray. When I asked him about it, over coffee and cookies in the cozy 38 PARTI: BEGINNINGS kitchen of his farmhouse, he said, “Oh, that old building has served its time. We used to use it back when we milked cows, but we don’t need it any more, and one of these days I am going to tear it down. In fact, the place where it stands would be a good spot for the new machine shed.” What about the three silos, which form an aesthetically pleasing composition against the western skyline? Why did Clar- ence see fit to group them in that particular attractive fashion? “‘VVell, two of them hold corn silage, and the third is sealed for high moisture corn. I have to mix the two to make a properly balanced ration for the steers in the feedlot, and then I have to throw in a sack of commercial protein. I placed the silos that way so I could drive a feed wagon right into the loading area and take the right amount from each silo without having to move the wagon.” So much for aesthetics, at least on the Magnus farm. A search for symbolism in the form and appearance of the human structures on the landscape makes me even more uneasy than .a search for aesthetics. There is no question that structures can be symbolic, but for whom are they symbolic? Is their sym- bolism the same for everyone? I have the impression that symbol- ism is more important for the outsider than it is for the insider. The insider accepts structures as functional entities, whereas the outsider finds symbolism in them. A structure may indeed have symbolism for the insider, but that symbolism is rarely articulated, and I become uncomfortable when we start probing too deeply for symbolism that is subconscious at very best, and may actually exist only in the mind of the prober. If I ask a farmer about one of his buildings, and he gives me an answer that goes beyond mere plausibility and makes real sense, I see no need to quiz him any farther. If I do go farther, in fact, I run the risk of imposing my own ideas, opinions, values, and beliefs on him. Some people, however, seem to need symbol— ism, and they have refined to a remarkable degree the knack of finding it where others do not even know it exists. I am reminded of the story about Grandma, who had started to act a little bit flaky. The family members wondered if they shouldn’t put her in a nursing home, but they were reluctant to submit her to the indignity of a trip to the psychiatrist’s office, so they invited the psychiatrist to dinner, and asked him to check her out during the meal. At one point he held up a spoon and asked her, “What’s this?” “By me,” she said, “it’s a spoon.” Later he held up a fork and asked the same question. “By me,” she said, “it’s a for .” READING THE LANDSCAPE 39 Arcadia, Wisconsin, in August. Photograph by George F. Thompson, 1988. When he asked her the same about the knife, she said, “By me, it’s a knife.” The psychiatrist then asked her, "Why do you preface each of your answers with ‘By me’?” “That’s easy,” she said. “By me it’s a spoon or a fork or a knife, but by you it’s probably some kind of phallic symbol.” I sometimes wonder if psychiatrists have nervous break— downs when they travel through the silo-studded dairy-farming areas of Wisconsin. My reservations about searching for symbolism in the land- scape apply with greater force to attempts to assign psychological power to it. No one can question the ability of the landscape to influence human attitudes, ideas, and behavior, but fashions in 40 PART l: BEGINNINGS Downtown Chicago. Photograph by Bob Thall, 1982. the perception and appreciation of the landscape have changed greatly through time, and the psychological impact of the land- scape varies enormously from person to person and from culture to culture. One of my friends, for example, complains about the boring monotony of endless fields of corn and soybeans on the flat plains of the Grand Prairie of east-central Illinois, but I find myself positively exhilarated by the vast open vistas of one of the finest farming areas on the face of the earth, and I feel uplifted and rejuvenated each time I travel across it. Who is to say that either of us is wrong? There is a very real danger, I fear, of projecting our personal opinions and prejudices to the status of universal truths. Each one John “5'59r Hart W READING THE LANDSCAPE 41 of us assumes we are perfectly normal human beings, and it is far too easy for us to project that assumption to the belief that all other normal human beings think and behave and react just as we do. In our heads, of course, we know they don’t, but in our hearts we feel they should, and we become irritated when they are irra— tional, i.e., when they don’t think or do as we would. The world would have been spared many blunders if planners and economic developers had been made to realize that their values are not uni- versal nor everywhere wanted. Different people perceive and assess the same landscape quite dif- ferently, and praiseworthy attempts have been made to measure differences in landscape assessment as objectively as possible, but the principal conclusion that emerges from such attempts is the complexity of the problem. We human beings are a cantanker- ous lot, and we seem to become increasingly cantankerous as we get farther from the constraints of having to make a living, and as we have greater freedom to indulge our personal whims and idiosyncrasies. The form and appearance of human structures on the land— scape are influenced by so many different considerations, from personal eccentricities to the necessities of making a living, that they have attracted the interest of scholars from many different disciplines. These scholars take different approaches to the study of landscape. They begin with different basic assumptions, they emphasize different aspects of structures (or whatever else they are investigating), they collect different kinds of evidence, and they lean toward different explanations. Although our approaches are different, each of us has an important job to do and a useful contribution to make, and we need to work together, in a spirit of mutual appreciation and respect, toward the common goal of a richer and fuller understanding of the landscapes that intrigue us all. Some authors—I hesitate to call them scholars—have elected the aesthetic approach, and they have produced handsome :vol— umes that make impressive decorations for coffee tables, but their excesses of enthusiasm fail to compensate for their inadequacies of insight. We need to learn to read the landscape, to understand its grammar and syntax and vocabulary, and not merely to rhap- sodize over it. And the novice must realize that a considerable apprenticeship is necessary to become familiar with the basic vo- cabulary, which once mastered can grow like a snowball. The landscape needs two types of research, detailed studies and extensive surveys, and it also needs two types of friends who feel quite passionately about it. It needs advocates, who are con- 42 PARTI: BEGINNINGS vinced they knowr why and how it should be preserved, or how and why it should be changed. It also needs scholar-teachers who are dedicated to trying to understand it, and to helping others understand it, but who are reluctant to advance their own per- sonal opinions about it. Advocates try to make the best possible case for the position they espouse. They emphasize the evidence that-supports this po— sition, and they ignore, belittle, or even try to discredit any evi~ deuce to the contrary. Advocates are necessary and important members of society, because they become involved in the hurly— burly of the decision-making process, and they can be responsible for inspiring great changes, but their credibility must inevitably be suspect, because everyone knows what they are going to say before they ever open their mouths. The role of the scholar-teacher is to get people to think for themselves, instead of trying to convince them of the preferability of a particular position. Scholars have opinions of their own, to be sure, but they are hesitant about advancing them, and they would rather help others develop a sound and solid foundation for forming their own opinions. Scholars try to understand and appreciate all points of view, and they never cease their search for the one that is best. They challenge all opinions, including their own, and they demand the fullest possible evidence in support of all positions, with the goal of sifting through it in search of the position that is supported by the greatest weight of evidence. Scholarship and teaching are inseparable. It is impossible to be a scholar without wanting to teach, and teaching that is not based on scholarship is pretty threadbare hand-me-down stuff. As a scholar I am eager to report my findings, both in person and in print, and to share with others what I have learned, but I find the role of advocate personally uncongenial, because I cherish the goal of scholarly objectivity in description and explanation. I ap- preciate the necessity and importance of advocacy, but I am happy to conclude this essay, as I began it, by agreeing once again with my good friend Brinck Jackson, who said: “[I]t is not the role of the student of landscape to make recommendations. If he [or she] has any role at all it is to teach people to learn by seeing.” UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS PRESS a =======_==_=__==___===_=_=_ Editing and Sequencing by GEORGE F. THOMPSON With a Foreword by- CHARLES E. LITTLE Austin T . .. . ,. .... T , .. . ,. T. ,n ,z 1..“ .... ,....\. T . , ...: . .. .4 . .. .Eu. 1..., ... 5...; .. . .. :wPfiJ ..eu . ,0 .. ... T, .. .. n. .. ... .. ..fififlijfléfiaflufii55M...TSqufiémfifiémflm u LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING~|N-PUBLICATION DATA Landscape in America I editing and sequencing by George F. Thompson.— 1St ed. p. cm. Includes index. ISBN 0-292—78135-0 (alk. paper).7ISBN 0—292-7813679 (alk. paper) 1. Landscape—United States. 2. United States—Description and travel. 3. Human geographyiumted States. 4, Landscape architecture—United States. 5. Landscape in art. I. Thompson, George F. E159.04.L36 1995 9173—de20 947180.49 Copyright ©- 1995 Center for American Places All rights reserved Printed in Hong Kong First edition, t995 "interior and Exterior Landscapes: The Pueblo Migration Stories" Copyright © 1995 Leslie Marmon Siiko Photographs in "Landscape Is a Point of View“ Copyright © Gregory Conniff Requests for permission to reproduce material from this work should be sent to Permissions, University of Texas Press, Box 7819. Austin, TX 78713—7819. The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences —Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSL 23948—1984. Design and typography by George Lenox ...
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Hart 1995 - CHAPTER 3 23 John Fraser Hart JOHN FRASER HART...

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