Thursday, March 24, 2011

reading a landscape.

Now that I have had time to synthesize some thoughts on my excursion to Boston allow me to introduce the term cultural geography and then use sites in Boston as examples. Where psycho-geography is the locals tool to be released from the monotony of society; cultural geography is a scope that anyone has access to, to read the landscape.
One of these terms is cultural landscape. A cultural landscape is defined by the National Park Service as "a geographic area, including both cultural and natural resources and the wildlife or domestic animals therein, associated with a historic event, activity, or person, or that exhibit other cultural or aesthetic values." If every landscape can be read see: cultural landschaft pt.two, then every landscape you enter has some sort of cultural significance making it a cultural landscape. Essentially this goes along with the situationist theories for breaking up the monotony for the every day citizen, but a visitor applies the lens of cultural geography to a place.
After this article I would implore all who read it to step outside and use psycho-geography to view the cultural landscapes that make up your neighborhoods. The four categories of cultural landscapes are described below.
  • The historic site type is a place that has a historic significance associated with it, Gettysburg, Pa. or the State House of the Province of Pennsylvania otherwise known as Independence Hall in Philadelphia Pa
  • The next type is a historic designed landscape, this is a property that had a notable landscape designer or even a home owner who design the exterior. Spaces designed by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, Garett Eckbo, and the homes in Dyssekilde, Denmark are some examples. 
  • The historic vernacular landscape are places and spaces that the locals have designed themselves using the information passed on through the generations. Information such as climate and local resources reflect certain land use patterns. An example of this is the vernacular homes of Norway, or terraced agriculture in China, or any of the US National Parks. 
  • The final type is an ethnographic landscape which is a place that has traditional cultural values  reflected through design to meet the wants of the a demographic in the area. These are areas where the citizens that make up the majority of the demographic imprint on the landscape the heritage they collectively celebrate. Examples of this can be restaurants and landscape/architectural details features, monuments. In Syracuse, NY- Lodi Street is a district that is known for its strong Italian population and it reflects this through Italian markets and bakeries.
Using the visit I recently made to Boston the examples to graphically represent the four types were not hard to find. After all, a lot of our American history occurred in spaces that are being used by a new population of people. A lot of the sites in Boston have undergone an adaptive reuse to fit the needs of decades gone by and, as the beat goes on, people will continue to add layers to the city.
The above graphic is my situationist map unbeknownst to me at the time I walked in a spiral direction, as I recorded
 the experience of being in a place. Below is my analysis of the various areas I walked through. 
  • Government Center Station -- Number One-Historic site/Designed 
This graphic represents the first place I entered when I exited the Government Center train station. My mind began to frenzy as I marveled at the Escher-esque government institution, City Hall. As for my interpretation: the architecture has successive jutting angles that make up the floor plans for the interior rooms this represents the laws and regulations that provides order. The reason why this building reminds me of work by Escher similar to this one, is because the inverted architectural details represent that the rules, laws and regulations, under certain circumstances, can be manipulated in favor for the citizen.

  • Union Street -- Number Two-Historic site/Ethnographic 
This represents what I walked into next as I left Gov't Cntr and entered the Union Street district. I would interpret this space as a lively sanctuary for memories of the past. American History, memorials, and Presidential happenings are a few of the features that make up this culture-storical landscape. The area is also notable for a few more reasons: the first is that this is the site of the oldest restaurant in the United States, the Union Oyster House- a site on the National Register of Historic Places.  The area is also home to the beginning of the Boston Big Dig, a project that involved re-routing a major thru-way  underground. The project was constructed during the course of 30 years. At street level a series of parks reflect the current users' needs reflected through designed using heritage and palimpsest as design precedent. A final facet of this area is that the day I walked through it an open air market was going on, full of fresh fruit, vegetables and the quintessential Boston seafood. 

  • Skyline -- Number Three-The Cultural Landscape 
This is the view of North Boston from across the waterway. Its awe inspiring to look at a sky line and imagine all the stories people can recall from being inside the areas hidden behind the urban wall. Another aspect to think about is that while you are viewing the city from the distance there are current events that are going on where you could have possibly added to the layers.

  • Street Art -- Number Four-Ethnographic 
Number four is a compilation of street art I encountered as I walked from North Boston to South Station. Street art is an amazing story anyone can read and gain an understanding of what a minority of people want the rest of us to know. While I find that well done street art is a wonderful addition to the public realm not everyone would share this opinion about any type of street art, well done or otherwise. 

  • South Street -- Number Five-Historic site 
The South Street station is a regional transportation hub in Boston, the building is also on the NRHP for among other reasons; in 1910 it had the most ridership of any other train station in the United States.

  • Chinatown walk -- Number Six-Ethnographic/Vernacular 
More street art I walked past as I left South Street and head into the Historic Leather District- shortly there after into Chinatown. 

  • Fenway -- Number Seven-Ethnographic/Historic site 
This final area is focusing on the Fenway ball park district, I was in a rush to visit a buddy who worked in the approximate area so I took the T. The first thing I saw were the allotments at the Fenway Garden Society- the first Victory Garden in the US, an American version of the Dansk allotment garden. Then as I walked further into this district you begin to lose sight of the Citgo sign, a unique landmark in Boston. Finally I entered the district that flanks the Fenway ball park. This is an interesting district because it is not so much a celebration of cultural heritage, rather it is a mosaic of buildings that centers around our National past time. 

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