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Bob Jarvis

Whilst preparing this issue, a new series, Topographies , has begun to be published by Reaktion Books. [1] The aims of this series parallel the agenda this issue of UDQ sets out and point to the need for a broader literature of place that is creative and critical, imaginative and not just professional.

'A new literature about place is still in its infancy. Drawing historical argument and visual description into narratives of personal experience, it takes critical discourse out of the academy and into the world. This new writing will be distinct from traditional travel literature, for neither need it depend on the 'journey' for its plot, nor must it conceal ambivalence toward the aesthetics, ecology and politics of tourism. Distinct, too, from writing about purely cultural forms, it will embrace both the man-made and the natural, the city and the wilderness. And in its style it can mingle analysis with anecdote, criticism with literature. The books in this series, written by historians, critics, social scientists and philosophers, experiment with the higher criticism of lived spaces, of the geographies people inhabit, visit, defend, destroy and overlook. It can offer cultural geographies of past and distant landscapes, or rewrite cultural history as travelogue; discovering in the author's own country, town, house or study a proper topos of writing.'

The ideal editors should be virtually anonymous, hidden behind their contributors voices. But in rounding up this issue's feature pages, I trace the books that influenced me and wonder where they fit into urban design and why they're shelved elsewhere: Alien Ginsberg's Howl and Jean Luc Godard's script for Alphaville that sustained my undergraduate projects, Phillip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep reread at Milton Keynes, Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities while I was a conservation officer, Edwin Morgan's translation (into Glaswegian) of Mayalkovsky's Wi The Hail Voice that inspired dream landscapes, Laurie Anderson's United States and Ian Sinclair's Downriver that I wish my students would emulate... these are the serious urban design references.

In a few pages though the booklists will be followed by a practice index, the world of possibility replaced with the realm of reality. Alistair Elliot's poem Networks springs to mind. Travelling in America as a foreigner, he is offered introductions, contacts, friends that range as far across the DX Decimal Classification as they do across the continent, and friends to offer too:

Expert on hunger, film-sound-engineer,
Investor of the Pill, a southern Jew,
A goy psychiatrist, gay classicist,
Redneck philosopher, holist, black girl deck-hand,
Wigmaker, pulmonary therapist,
Yoga carpenter, Chinese diamond-merchant,
Hard-riding, yachting septuagenarians...

At home, I just know poets and librarians. [2]

Must we just read architecture and town planning?


1. Published so far are Stephen Barber: Fragments of the European City , due are Armondo: Fray Berlin (April 1996), Jacques Reda, The Ruins of Paris and Victor Burgin, some Cities (Sept 1996), Robert Harbison Wilderness (1998).

2. Alistair Elliot, 'Networks', first published Times Literary Supplement, Oct 23-29,1987.

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