Publication

Making a Middle Landscape

 

Book Cover Making a Middle Landscape

Making a Middle Landscape
Author: Peter G. Rowe MIT Press, 1991

Today's suburban metropolitan development of single-family homes, shopping centers, corporate offices, and roadway systems constitutes what Peter Rowe calls a "middle landscape" between the city and the countryside. While others have written about this phenomenon from the point of view of sociology or cultural geography, Rowe looks closely at suburban America in terms of design and physical planning. He builds a case for a new way of seeing and building suburbia, complete with theoretical underpinnings and a basis for design.

The directions Rowe pursues are threefold: what has actually been built since 1920, as simple arrangements of land, buildings, and infrastructure have been transformed into complete multi-use centers; the mythic themes, metaphors, and attitudes driving the production of important cultural artifacts like the home and the workplace; and the definition of design principles for this new landscape.

Rowe looks first at how suburban expansion has altered the land, at the new spatio-cultural mosaic that has emerged and taken the place of the traditional city. He then examines four cultural artifacts-the house and its garden; the retail realm of roadside franchises and commercial strips, shopping villages and malls; the modern workplace of office parks and corporate estates; and the roadway that has become an essential link to all of these. Running throughout, he notes, is a story of technical planning and mass production where, paradoxically, rational excesses are often cloaked in romantic imagery. He concludes by proposing, and illustrating with numerous examples, a symbolic construct of "modern pastoralism" that juxtaposes the idea arcadian simplicity and value against the modern technical temperament.

Contents

PART ONE       Sub-Urbs in Rure 

1. Territorial Transformations 

        From City to Suburb 
        A Tale of Two Towns 
        From Suburb to Urban Metropolis 

2. Changing Attitudes 

        Monolith or Diverse Social Entity? 
        Wasteful Fragmentation or Pure Democracy? 
        Private Commodity or Public Good? 
        Monotonous Conformity or Individual Comfort? 
        Placelessness or Place? 
        A Metropolitan Spatial Synthesis 
       

PART TWO       Cultural Artifacts 

3. Houses in Gardens 

        Housing Types 
        Spatial Trends and Variations 
        Form, Figure, and Future Function 

4. Retail Realms 

        Types of Retail Center 
        Spatial, Formal, and Functional Trends 
        Future Variations 

5. Corporate Estates 

        Types of Corporate Office 
        Design Themes and Trends 
        Society and the Corporate Image 

6. Highways and Byways 

        Highways 
        Subdivision Street Forms 
        Spatial Developments and Variations

 

PART THREE       Poetics and Making 

7. Myths and Masks 

        The Pastoral Perspective 
        The Modern Technical Orientation 
        Modern Pastoralism 
        Historicism and Utopianism 
        Critical Reality 
        Symbolic Function 
        Paradise and Pandemonium 

8. Places and Poetics 

            A Poetic of the Middle Landscape 
            Poetic Design 
            Poetic Expression 
            Poetic Operations 
          Making a Middle Landscape


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