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Public Nature

Scenery, History, and Park Design
Edited by Ethan Carr, Shaun Eyring, and Richard Guy Wilson

BUY Cloth · 320 pp. · 7 × 10 · ISBN 9780813933436 · $45.00 · May 2013

CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, American Library Association (2013)

This diverse new collection of essays, written by scholars, practitioners, and public-land managers, considers the history of public park design, as well as the parks themselves as repositories of cultural values.

In exploring the role design has played in these public spaces, the contributors look not only at noticeably planned, often urban, landscapes such as Central Park or Boston’s Back Bay Fens but also at parks such as Yosemite with naturally occurring scenic qualities, which require less development. The essays present design as encompassing not simply a park’s appearance—its buildings and landscape features—but also its functions, how it delivers a culturally significant experience to visitors.

Much park design has been fed into or organized by systems promoting preservation (the National Park Service being only the most obvious example), and many of this book’s contributors stress park design’s relationship to preservation, as Americans have become aware of a natural heritage they identify with strongly and want to experience. Other essays treat such engaging topics as European influences on early American parks, the peculiar nature of U.S. regional parks, the effect of the automobile on the outdoor recreational experience, and—in an international context—parks and national identity.

ContributorsTal Alon-Mozes, Israel Institute of Technology * Catherin Bull, University of Melbourne * Theodore Catton, University of Montana * Esther da Costa Meyer, Princeton University * Timothy Davis, U.S. National Park Service * Elizabeth Flint Engle, Western Center for Historic Preservation, Grand Teton National Park * Christine Madrid French, independent scholar * Heidi Hohmann, Iowa State University * John Dixon Hunt, University of Pennsylvania * Brian Katen, Virginia Tech * Richard Longstreth, George Washington University * Neil M. Maher, New Jersey Institute of Technology * Catharina Nolin, Stockholm University * Nicole Porter, University of Nottingham * Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, Foundation for Landscape Studies * Katherine Solomonson, University of Minnesota * Lucienne Thys-Şenocak, Koç University, Istanbul


Public Nature addresses the developments that have shaped millions of acres of what today we see as some of our most contested and beloved cultural landscapes. The range here of countries, eras, and disciplines is sweeping and represents a much-needed synthesis to understand the broad cultural phenomenon our parks have been.

Laurie Olin, author of Across the Open Field: Essays Drawn from English Landscapes

Public Nature offers a compelling perspective on the complex relationship between nature and society. Through their careful analyses of parks in the U.S. and abroad, the authors convincingly demonstrate that open space and our evolving uses of it reflect our deep cultural need for place, whether wild, managed, or imagined.

Char Miller, Pomona College, author of Public Lands, Public Debates: A Century of Controversy

"From the brilliant first essay by John Dixon Hunt to the end of this book, every entry is a keeper."


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