Following some unexpected shipping delays, The Guide to New York City Urban Landscapes (W.W. Norton) now has a publication date of August 5. That actually means the book will be in bookstores any time now, and is available for pre-order at Amazon. Many thanks to William Menking for his nice post about the book at the Architect’s Newspaper blog. He wrote:
This is the perfect book to consult before your relatives come to town and expect an insider’s tour of the city or before you pass by an unknown bit of green in the city. Many of the urban landscapes described in the guide are likely known only by nearby residents or only the most keen city observers.
The Guide to New York City Urban Landscapes is Robin Lynn’s and my attempt at a first-ever survey of what we mean by the catch-all term “urban landscapes”: parks, plazas, green spaces, open spaces, atriums, trails, community gardens, even green roofs. Urban landscapes are more on the minds of city dwellers today than at perhaps any other time in history. In New York in recent years we have seen a revolution in landscape, as mile after mile of disused waterfront, once dominated by industrial uses, has been converted to linear parks. The High Line, a park built atop a disused railroad viaduct in Chelsea, has become one of the city’s principal attractions. And the city has banned vehicles from huge swaths of the roadbeds of Broadway and some other streets to create pedestrian plazas, replete with movable chairs and tables, rimmed by bike lanes.
Our intention in the book is to look at these new developments in the light of what has gone before, such as Green-Wood Cemetery (pictured on the book’s front cover) in the 1840s, Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza in the 1890s, the reign of Robert Moses from the 1930s to the 1960s, and the influence of William H. Whyte from the 1980s to today. We may, indeed, say that each of these represents a distinct phase in the landscape history of New York City.
This blog has two purposes. One is to serve as a companion to the book. Here I—and my co-author Robin Lynn—can amplify certain entries in the book, make corrections, and add material for which we simply—a reality of the making of books!—ran out of room. (For example, both Robin and I very much wanted the book to contain an entry on Socrates Sculpture Park in Astoria, Queens. That entry, instead, will appear, soon, on this blog.) Another very important thing: Superstorm Sandy, which ravaged some of the city’s landscapes, happened when the book was too far along in production for us to make changes. This blog will include Sandy-related updates to entries, as well as track any other changes to the landscapes covered in the book.
The blog’s other purpose is to be its own thing, to offer new perspectives on the city’s landscapes, to muse on landscape history, and to draw the reader’s attention to interesting places, exhibits, articles, and resources. For example, come back for my reviews of Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes, at the Museum of Modern Art through September 23.
Both book and blog are about more than just describing landscapes. They are about the unique power at the intersection of urban design and landscape architecture to alter the city dweller’s patterns of use and attention, and both to shape and to reflect his changing wants and needs.
At any rate, I hope you will buy the book, and I hope you will follow the blog and join in the discussion of what has been and will continue to be a central issue in the life of New York and other cities (yes, I will get to other cities, too) in the 21st century.