"Twenty-eight years ago I went to England for a three-month visit and rest. What I found changed my life." So begins this memoir by one of America's best-known landscape architects, Laurie Olin. Raised in a frontier town in Alaska, trained in Seattle and New York, Olin found himself dissatisfied with his job as an urban architect and accepted an invitation to England to take a respite from work. What he found, in abundance, was the serendipity of a human environment built over time to respond to the land's own character and to the people who lived and worked there. For Olin, the English countryside was a palimpsest of the most eloquent and moving sort, yet whose manifestation was of ordinary buildings meant to shelter their inhabitants and further their work. With evocative language and exquisite line drawings, the author takes us back to his introduction to the scenes of English country towns, their ancient universities, meandering waterways, and dramatic cloudscapes racing in from the Atlantic. He limns the geologic histories found within the rock, the near-forgotten histories of place-names, and the recent histories of train lines and auto routes.
Comparing the growth of building in the English countryside, Olin draws some sobering conclusions about our modern lifestyle and its increasing separation from the landscape. As much a plea for saving the modern American landscape as it is a passionate exploration of what makes the English landscape so characteristically English, Across the Open Field is "an affectionate ramble through real places of lasting worth."
Laurie Olin is Principal of Olin Partnership and Practice Professor of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to his extensive work on landscape projects, including Bryant Park in New York City and the Getty Center Gardens in Los Angeles, Olin has written frequently on the history and theory of landscape architecture for various professional journals, for which he won the Bradford Williams Medal in 1991. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is an Honorary Member of the American Institute of Architects. He is a coauthor of Vizcaya: An American Villa and Its Makers, also published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.