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The story of our nation and ourselves as told through our country's most significant gardens and their creators. From Frederick Law Olmsted to Richard Neutra, Michelle Obama to our neighbors, Americans throughout history have revealed something of themselves--their personalities, desires, and beliefs--in the gardens they create. Rooted in the time and place of their making, as much as in the minds and identities of their makers, gardens mirror the struggles and energies of a changing society. Melding biography, history, and cultural commentary in a one-of-a-kind narrative, American Eden presents a dynamic, sweeping look at this country's landscapes and the visionaries behind them. Monticello's gardens helped Jefferson reconcile his conflicted feelings about slavery-and take his mind off his increasing debt. Edith Wharton's gardens made her feel more European and superior to her wealthy but insufficiently sophisticated countrymen. Martha Stewart's how-to instructions helped bring Americans back into their gardens, while at the same time stoking and exploiting our anxieties about social class. Isamu Noguchi's and Robert Smithson's experiments reinvigorated the age-old exchange between art and the garden. American Eden offers an inclusive definition of the garden, considering intentional landscapes that range from domestic kitchen gardens to city parks and national parks, suburban backyards and golf courses, public plazas and Manhattan's High Line park, reclaimed from freight train tracks. And it exposes the overlap between garden-making and painting, literature, and especially architecture-the garden's inseparable sibling-to reveal the deep interconnections between the arts and their most inspired practitioners. Moving deftly through time and place across America's diverse landscapes--from Revolutionary-era Virginia to turn-of-the-century Chicago to 1960s suburban California--and featuring a diverse cast of landscape-makers--whether artists, architects, or housewives, amateurs or professionals, robber barons, politicians, reformers, or dreamers--Wade Graham vividly unfolds the larger cultural history through more personal dramas. Beautifully illustrated with color and black-and-white images, American Eden is at once a different kind of garden book and a different kind of American history, one that offers a compelling, untold story--a saga that mirrors and illuminates our nation's invention, and constant reinvention, of itself.
A lively, unique, and accessible cultural history that explores our cities in a new way--as expressions of ideas, often conflicting, about how we should live, work, play, make, buy, and believeBeginning as visionary concepts, the blue-prints for the world we live in today--sometimes utopian, sometimes outlandish, always controversial--were gradually adopted and constructed on a massive scale in international cities from London to Dubai to Ulan Bator to Los Angeles. Wade Graham uses the lives of the pivotal dreamers behind these archetypes, as well as their acolytes and antagonists, to deconstruct our urban landscapes--the houses, towers, civic centers, condominiums, malls, boulevards, highways, and spaces in between--exposing the ideals and ideas embodied in each.Through in-depth portraits that take us from the baroque fantasy villages of Bertram Goodhue to the superblocks of Le Corbusier's Radiant City to the pseudo-agrarian dispersal of Frank Lloyd Wright's Broadacre City, our upscale leafy suburbs, downtown skyscraper districts, infotainment-driven shopping centers, and "sustainable" eco-developments are seen as never before. In this elegantly designed and illustrated book, Graham uncovers the original plans of brilliant, obsessed, and sometimes megalomaniacal designers, revealing the foundations of today's varied municipalities.Dream Cities is nothing less than a field guide to our modern urban world.Praise for Wade Graham's American Eden "Mr. Graham recounts his tale with considerable verve and a vast erudition in the history of gardening and the arts generally. . . . Among much else, Mr. Graham shows us that the history of how our nation grew can be found in what it has grown."--Wall Street Journal"A blazingly fresh, critical, and ecologically astute masterwork."--Booklist (starred review)"Enjoyable . . . well researched, posing an interesting historic tie from the past to the present."--Washington Post"Informative and absolutely engrossing . . . an astute analysis--and, ultimately, a joyous celebration--of four hundred years of ingenuity and vision."--Ross King, author of Brunelleschi's Dome"We are what we plant, LA-based writer Wade Graham posits in his history of gardens. When he isn't explaining the economic and cultural influences, he crafts fascinating profiles. . . . An engaging look at our own pieces of paradise."--Los Angeles Magazine