Finding Solace in the Uniqueness of Landscape

Decades ago, Walter Benjamin theorized that pretty much everything could be reproduced—and, therefore, nothing was unique. This dismal conclusion, however true it may be, ignores the uniqueness of landscape.
August 3, 2017, 11am PDT | Josh Stephens
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"Even in the 1930s, it wasn’t hard to imagine that the same mechanical processes that were producing cars and phones and chemicals could be trained to produce art as well. Or, rather, reproduce it. Benjamin does not discount the importance of the artist in the creation of original work. But he implies that human mastery of chemistry and materials science, paired with the precision of the assembly line, could essentially produce copies indistinguishable from their originals and do so in limitless numbers."

"What struck me then as I strolled those expectant streets (possibly in ways that the residents never will) was that, for all the sameness of the homes, each one retained an essential uniqueness. Those developments, like most such developments, offered a few designs, each with lame, disembodied names like 'The Nantucket' or whatever. They weren’t so much designs as they were collections of amenities and necessities united under roofs. And yet, each occupied its own special, if not necessarily distinctive, plot of desert."

"That’s why I take solace in special places and un-special places alike. And it’s why I put a degree of faith in architecture, even when so many other human endeavors have slid into banality and self-reference. Of course, not every architect can, or should, be another Utzon or Meier. The world will always need far more workaday structures than it does masterpieces. The more we must strain to see our auras amid the banality of postmodern life, the more we may need to tighten our grip on the incredible places humanity has created."

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Published on Wednesday, August 2, 2017 in Common Edge Collaborative
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