Synopses & Reviews
Ancient walls, barbed-wire walls, metaphorical walls, political walls: all form, reform, and dissect our world. They mark sacred space and embody earthly power. They maintain peace and cause war. They enforce difference and create unity. Walls are pervasive and potent, and for Thomas Oles, it is time to broaden our ideas of what they canand#151;and shouldand#151;do.and#160;
Inand#160;Walls, Oles asserts that our societies and our politics are shaped byand#151;and shapeand#151;the divisions we make in and among landscapes. He traces the rich array of social practices associated with walls and other boundary markers across history and prehistory, and he describes how, at the dawn of the modern era, these practices were pushed aside by new notions of sovereign rights and private property. The consequences of this change can be seen all around us. From nation to parcel, landscapes everywhere today are divided and subdivided by boundaries whose poor material is matched only by their moral ugliness. Oles shows that walls are relational, and all communities are defined both by and through them. The crafting of walls is therefore critical to defining our ethical relations to the landscape and to one another. In an insightful and evocative epilogue, Oles brings to life a society marked by productive and thoughtful relationships to its boundaries, one that will leave readers more hopeful about the divided landscapes of the future.
This book about walls is genuinely exciting and alive with insights, elegance, rigor, style, and thoughtful humanism. It reveals and interrogates the social, political, and historical complexities of one of our most common landscape features, demonstrating how we misconstrue or fail to appreciate the nature and possibilities of physical boundaries. Oles shows that our societies and our politics are shaped by the nature and quality of the divisions we make on and among landscapes, and he interrogates practical, theoretical, and ethical aspects of our landscapes and the boundaries between them. This leads him into stark discussions of barriers such as the USand#150;Mexico border fence, Israeland#8217;s fortifications in the West Bank, and the kinds of residential barriers that define neighborhoods by their edges in communities worldwide, from Johannesburg to Levittown. Oles further locates counternarratives of walls, showing how people have lived in walls or used them in seemingly contradictory ways, letting permeability become a form of strength.
Stone walls, concrete walls, chain-link walls, border walls: we live in a world of walls. Walls mark sacred space and embody earthly power. They maintain peace and cause war. They enforce separation and create unity. They express identity and build community. Yard to nation, city to self, walls define and dissect our lives. And, for Thomas Oles, it is time to broaden our ideas of what they canand#151;and mustand#151;do.
In Walls, Oles shows how our minds and our politics are shaped byand#150;and shapeand#150;our divisions in the landscape. He traces the rich array of practices and meanings connected to the making and marking of boundaries across history and prehistory, and he describes how these practices have declined in recent centuries. The consequence, he argues, is all around us in the contemporary landscape, riven by walls shoddy in material and mean in spirit. Yet even today, Oles demonstrates, every wall remains potentially an opening, a stage, that critical place in the landscape where people present themselves and define their obligations to one another. In an evocative epilogue, Oles brings to life a society of productive, intentional, and ethical enclosureand#151;one that will leave readers more hopeful about the divided landscapes of the future.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 613-621) and index.
About the Author
Thomas Olesand#160;is lecturer in landscape architecture at the University of Edinburgh. He has taught and practiced landscape architecture in the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and United States and is the author ofand#160;Go with Me: 50 Steps to Landscape Thinking.