Dwelling in Landscape

Daniel Bluestone, Boston University, Fellow 2013–2014

My book project, Dwelling in Landscape, explores the changing theories and practices that have guided designers in building residences within the broader landscape and in shaping landscapes surrounding residences. It frames the changing theories of prospect and aspect as they guided ideas about the appropriate relationship between residence and site in constituting a domestic landscape. The project is focused primarily on the United States from the late eighteenth century to the early twenty-first century. I used many of the library’s primary sources, including the early years of the journal Garden and Forest, to take measure of Charles Eliot’s belief that the sensitivity to landscape that could develop at home, in the garden, would then translate into a politics that support the creation of regional park systems and national conservation areas. I also drew on the rich secondary literature to situate the work of developer Robert Davenport, architect Charles Goodman, and landscape architects Lou Bernard Voigt and Daniel Urban Kiley at Hollin Hills, a modern post–World War II residential subdivision in Fairfax County, Virginia, where the walls of the house opened up to the surrounding landscape, thereby extending the usual bounds of the house. I recast my previous research on Alexander Jackson Davis and Philip St. George Cocke at Belmead mansion in Powhatan, Virginia, to focus more squarely on the extraordinary plantation landscape surrounding Davis’s 1840s country house and its relation to the broader contest over the place of slavery in the United States. My subject has long resonated with fundamental values concerning the relationship between civilization and nature; it has taken on new urgency as we register the effects of climate change and efforts to imagine more sustainable approaches to buildings and environmental resources.