Monday, September 04, 2006

Geographers You Should Know: J.B. Jackson

John Brinckerhoff Jackson was born in France to American parents of Dutch descent in 1909. He spent his childhood between his home in Washington D.C. and preparatory school in Europe. His experiences in Europe gave Jackson an appreciation of people, culture, and architecture.

After graduating from Harvard and the start of World War II, Jackson signed on to become an intelligence officer in the United States Army. While in the army Jackson learned various geographic techniques. 1951 was the start of Jackson's professional geographic career. He founded Landscape magazine (and at first contributed all the articles and letters to the editor).

The magazine, and his research, focused on the vernacular landscape (aka everyday landscape). A great example is the home and village/town. From an interview with Jackson: In Puritan New England the church was the focus point for the whole village. Right in front of the church would be the common green. Laws were passed that no homes could be built more than a mile away from the church. This fostered a sense of community and a communal identity in Northeast America. However, with the passage of the Northwest Land Ordinance; land was divided into massive square sections which could be owned by one person. The need for a village was diminished outside New England and community was replaced with rugged individualism. Things like this are abound in Jackson's work from downtowns, to strip malls, to front lawns.

Jackson, a professor, never was comfortable with solely academic geographers. He made sure his writings could be understood by the general public and kept it free from post-modern influences. If you have time I recommend one buy or check-out from their local library Landscapes, Discovering the Vernacular Landscape, and A Sense of Place, a Sense of Time.

"I want Americans to explore the landscape for its own sake to develop an intelligent affection for the country as it is and a vision disciplined enough to distinguish what is wrong and should be changed from what is valuable and worthy of protection."

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