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Posts Tagged ‘Landscape History’

Editor’s Note: This month, the Society of Architectural Historians awarded Vittoria Di Palma’s Wasteland: A History (Yale University Press, 2014; $45) the 2016 Elisabeth Blair MacDougall Book Award. The award, established in 2005, recognizes “the most distinguished work of scholarship in the history of landscape architecture or garden design.”

Back in May 2015, we featured the title as our “Backstory,” and we’re sharing the piece again in recognition of the SAH award.

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“Wasteland is a cultural construct, a creation of the imagination, a category applied to landscapes rather than an inherent characteristic of them.” So writes the historian Vittoria Di Palma in Wasteland: A History (Yale University Press, 2014; $45), her study of 18th-century landscape ideals. Elegantly laying out the pervasive if elusive role that disgust has played in the development of modern notions of landscape value, Di Palma asks us to look again at undesirable spaces. Dividing her study by typologies—swamp, forest, and mountain—Di Palma examines the way that new and evolving definitions of wasteland have, in their repellence and contrast, shaped the theories of landscape beauty and utility that continue to influence our perceptions of landscape today.

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While many people know the fine books published by the Library of American Landscape History (LALH), the library’s excellent series of short documentaries, North America by Design, deserves attention as well. The films, coproduced with Florentine Films/Hott Productions, Inc. and freely available for viewing, are based on the richly illustrated scholarly histories they publish. So far, the series contains four films, all of which can be seen in full on the LALH website:

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