Redesigning the American Lawn: A Search for Environmental Harmony

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Yale University Press, 2001 - Gardening - 178 pages
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Americans love their lawns with a passion rarely seen in other countries; fifty-eight million Americans enthusiastically plant, weed, water, spray, and mow an estimated twenty million acres of lawn. But is our dedication to these lawns contributing to the serious environmental problems facing the planet? The authors in this book state that the lawn may be an ecological anachronism, and they argue that we must rethink the way we care for our lawns so that these small pieces of the environment will demonstrate our commitment to a more ecologically sound world. The authors outline the origins of ideas about the lawn and the reasons for its enduring popularity. They describe the development of ideas about its form and the making of the lawn into an object of beauty. They explain how the lawn industry has encouraged the spread of the "industrial" lawn to sustain high sales of mowers, seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation equipment. However, say the authors, Industrial Lawns can have high environmental costs: for example, power motors contribute to regional air pollution and global warming; excess fertilizers and pesticides wash off our lawns and run into our wells, streams, and lakes; grass clippings that are bagged and hauled away are major contributors to solid waste problems; and the watering of lawns depletes scarce water supplies. How can we create environmentally sound lawns? The authors offer a variety of ideas - such as moderation in our use of lawn supplements, ecological use of grass varieties, the substitution of hand mowers for power motors, and the use of grass clippings to fertilize the lawn. These strategies can help us to care for conventional lawns in ways lessdangerous to the environment. They also propose two more radical alternatives: Freedom Lawns that allow natural and unrestricted growth of grasses, clover, wildflowers, and other broad-leafed herbaceous plants; and total replacement of the lawn with new landscape designs. By choosing these alternatives - which can be aesthetically pleasing as well as ecologically correct - we can unite our environmental concerns with direct personal action, acting locally while thinking globally and creating a new garden aesthetic in the process.

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Redesigning the American lawn: a search for environmental harmony

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As the title indicates, the emphasis here is on shaping a new aesthetic for a new ecological ethic. The idea is not to do away with the lawn but to design and manage it to reduce its present damage to ... Read full review


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About the author (2001)

Diana Balmori was born in Gijón, Spain on June 4, 1932. She studied architecture at the National University of Tucumán in Argentina, but failed to receive a degree when the government expelled her entire class because of a student protest. She emigrated to the United States in 1952 with her husband. She received a doctorate in urban history at U.C.L.A. in 1973. In 1980, she joined her husband's firm, César Pelli and Associates, where she created a department of landscape architecture and worked with him on several projects including the Winter Garden Atrium in the World Financial Center in Manhattan. She was a landscape architect whose ecologically sensitive designs integrated buildings and the natural environment. In 1990, she founded Balmori Associates. The firm worked on numerous projects including transforming the old industrial port of Bilbao, Spain, into a park system; the Gwynns Falls Trail in Baltimore; a trail system in Cedar Lake Park in Minneapolis; and South Korea's new administrative capital, Sejong City. Her first book, Beatrix Farrand's American Landscapes, written with Diane Kostial McGuire and Eleanor McPeck, was published in 1985. Her other books include Redesigning the American Lawn: A Search for Environmental Harmony written with F. Herbert Bormann and Gordon T. Geballe, Groundwork: Between Landscape and Architecture written with Joel Sanders, and A Landscape Manifesto. She died from lung cancer on November 14, 2016 at the age of 84.

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