Only in the past century have Americans been able to see their country from the air, to view its majestic natural and manmade topography and muse how it came to look the way it does. Landscape architect James Corner and aerial photographer Alex MacLean now present breathtaking photographs, exquisite map-drawings, and thoughtful essays that record their flights across the continental United States and express their growing understanding of the way the American landscape has been forged by various cultures in the past and what the possibilities are for its future design.
The book traces the influence on the American landscape of the Anasazi and the Hopi in the southwest, the French along the Mississippi, the British in the east, the pioneer Americans across the plains, and the technological society across much of modern-day America. It investigates the ways in which landscape representation--particularly aerial vision--not only reflects a given reality but also constitutes a way of seeing and acting in the world. It discusses the many meanings of measure--from practical (such as solar furnaces in California) to poetic (such as raised tablets in Illinois that once formed the structure of an ancient city). And it suggests alternative possibilities for planning and taking future measures in our environment, building upon examples that range from the rectilinear survey landscape to the great transportation networks and such technological innovations as windmill fields, pivot-irrigation systems, and radio-telescope installations.
James Corner is assistant professor of landscape architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. Alex S. MacLean is a photographer and founder of Landslides, a firm that specializes in low altitude aerial photography. Denis Cosgrove is professor of geography at the Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London.