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Crossing The Expendable Landscape

by Bettina Drew
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publishing date: 01/09/1998
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9781555972790
  • ISBN: 1555972799

Synopsis

Crossing the Expendable Landscape is a remarkable book--by turns scathing and mournful, witty and sad. The essays in this volume are much more than just a savage indictment of mass architecture in this country, they're a penetrating look at what our buildings say about Americans as a people. In our eagerness to get rid of our "built past," Bettina Drew writes, we have institutionalized a kind of historical amnesia. To remind us of how urban renewal first drained our cities of their character, she visits Stamford, Connecticut; to examine the vogue for gated communities with highly restrictive "covenants," she visits Hilton Head, North Carolina; and to judge the fruits of "New Urbanism," she visits the Disney town of Celebration, Florida. Add stops in Las Vegas, Dallas, and even Branson, Missouri, and an ugly picture begins to take shape. "I would have liked to live in a world where past effort actually mattered," Drew mourns, as she chronicles the way of life destroyed along with downtown Stamford. The popularity of gated communities like Hilton Head "speaks volumes for how willingly people have given up their democratic rights, and how acceptable autocratic rule really is to large numbers of Americans." Celebration represents progress of sorts, but the fact that community is now a "product we can purchase, rather than something we create for ourselves, suggests how deeply the values of the marketplace have penetrated our domestic lives."

As a doctoral student in Yale's American Studies program, Drew writes from the perspective not of an architect or urban planner but of a passionate advocate of old-fashioned cities. Rather than concentrating on theories or even solutions, she records what it feels like to travel through the bland malls, freeways, and office parks of edge city. And it feels bad. True, her urban prejudices are often on bold display, as in a vituperative passage about the South and its longstanding state of "social irresponsibility and denial" or in her assertion that "the huge numbers of Americans between the coasts ... live in a world that is deeply provincial and culturally starved." But no one could accuse Drew of dispassion. It's impossible to read this book without feeling that our desecration of the American landscape has impoverished our inner landscapes as well. --Mary Park


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  • HITS YOU WHERE YOU LIVE!
    From Amazon

    Really good book! The last chapter on modernism would have been great @ the beginning of the book. Although Drew posed no real solutions to our ruined physical environments, (she does write about the "New Urbanism")Drew's treatise gives us all pause to reflect on both how we live & what we have settled for when it comes to our housing and living choices (or lack there of.) Read this & get angry & active!

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