As we LOOK at the urban environment around us, here is a set of axioms (or “truths”) to guide our looking.
1. THE AXIOM OF LANDSCAPE AS CLUE TO CULTURE The man-made landscape – the ordinary run-of-the-mill things that humans have created and put upon the earth – provides strong evidence of the kind of people we are, and were, and are in process of becoming. In other words, the culture of any nation is unintentionally reflected in its ordinary vernacular landscape.
2. THE AXIOM OF CULTURAL UNITY AND LANDSCAPE EQUALlTY Nearly all items in human landscapes reflect culture in some way. There are almost no exceptions. Furthermore, most items in the human landscape are no more and no less important than other items - in terms of their role as clues to culture.
3. THE AXIOM OF COMMON THINGS Common landscapes – however important they may be – are by their nature hard to study by conventional academic means. The reason is negligence, combined with snobbery.
4. THE HISTORIC AXIOM In trying to unravel the meaning of contemporary landscapes and what they have to “say” about us as Americans, history matters. That is, we do what we do, and make what we make because our doings and our makings are inherited from the past.
5. THE GEOGRAPHIC (OR ECOLOGIC) AXIOM Elements of a cultural landscape make little cultural sense if they are studied outside their geographic (i.e., locational) context.
6. THE AXIOM OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONTROL Most cultural landscapes are intimately related to physical environment. Thus, the reading of cultural landscape also presupposes some basic knowledge of physical landscape.
7. THE AXIOM OF LANDSCAPE OBSCURITY Most objects in the landscape – although they convey all kinds of “messages” – do not convey those messages in any obvious way. The landscape does not speak to us very clearly. At a very minimum, one must know what kinds of questions to ask.