In this book, Robert Harbison offers a novel interpretation of what architectural theory might look like. The title is an echo of Wallace Stevens's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird." Like the poem, Harbison's work is a composite structure built of oblique meanings and astonishing shifts that add up to an engaging portrait—in this case a portrait of architecture in which use, symbol, and metaphor coexist.
Paul Shepheard's previous book, What is Architecture?, was about making real, material things in the world -- landscapes, buildings, and machines. The Cultivated Wilderness is about those landscapes, and about the strategies that govern what we've done in shaping them.In the author's words, this book is about "seeing things that are too big to see." His emphasis on strategy makes landscape fundamental -- he says that every architectural move is set in a landscape. Norman England, for example, was constructed as a network of strong points, in a strategy of occupation.
Not since the 1920s has American architecture undergone such fundamental changes as those which are revitalizing the profession today. But in this period of great artistic fertility and unrest, there has yet to emerge a critical theory capable of analyzing the conditions and examining the attitudes by which our architecture is being redefined.