Places

About
Foundation
Partner Schools
Places Wire
Print Archive
Peer Review
Submissions
Donate
Contact


Departments

Critique
Essays
Gallery
Interviews
Multimedia
Partner News
Peer Reviewed
Poetry & Fiction
Projects


Topics

Architecture
Art
Books
Cities / Places
Community
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Health / Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Infrastructure
Landscape
Literature
Photography
Planning
Politics / Policy
Preservation
Public / Private
Reputations
Sustainability
Technology
Transportation
Urbanism
Water



Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact




Gallery: Ken McCown

Point of Astonishment


In every landscape, the point of astonishment is the meeting of the sky and the earth.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, 1850





I recently traveled from the Western United States to New Zealand and discovered an extraordinary — an astonishing — landscape. Here on the other side of the earth I found landscapes where plate tectonics transform the horizon from the peaceful repose of open plains and wide lakes to the jagged heights of volcanic mountains. I found landscapes that demand to be moved on, over, under and through. Planes flew us close to volcanic spouts, buses rambled precariously over hills and through tunnels on a voyage through fjords to the ocean. Caves were filled with glowworms that seemed like stars as we floated on the water looking up.


PLAY SLIDESHOW Play


These dynamic experiences opened up new ways to connect with landscapes, mixing continuous sensations of earth, air and water. And throughout there is the quality of the light. The air in New Zealand is notably clean, and the light remarkably pure, unfiltered by haze and pollution. In some parts of the country the landscape seems jaunty, sparkling in the clear air. In contrast some landscapes, especially on the western side of the South Island, are dark, murky from clouds that deposit over a hundred inches of rain every year.

To relate to these new and exotic landscapes, I referenced my experience in the western United States, especially California. I thought about what I'd learned of the history of California in the first half of the 20th century, before the big postwar suburban boom, when the state was less populous, the air not so dirty. New Zealand today seemed to me like California once was. So you could say that these photographs are an attempt to see two lands and two times as one. To see a land as I move through it, in the here and now, and to imagine a long-ago place I can never visit. And to wonder: What was it like? What have we gained, and what have we lost?


Share This Story

RELATED POSTS


The Land Up North


Geographies of Detention


Shelter


Folded in Place


Writing on the Wall



RSSSubscribe to Comment Feed

Comments (3)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT >>

Could you please send me Ken's correct email address, the one given in his bio won't deliver.
I have some photos of NZ he may be interested in.

Thanks

John Hare
John Hare
07.12.11 at 08:51

John,

Please try the university email address in Ken's site bio. If that doesn't work, you might work through the University of Tennessee.

Nancy Levinson
Nancy Levinson
07.13.11 at 03:09

The comparison to California is fascinating. Although I haven't visited NZ yet, I find that landscapes in both places challenge my basic beliefs about what a landscape is or how it should function or appear. Both places seem filled with countless surprises of both grandeur and surreality.
David Tulloch
07.14.11 at 08:57



LOG IN TO POST A COMMENT
Don't have an account? Create an account. Forgot your password? Click here.

Email


Password




Donate to Places: Your Support Makes Our Work Possible



ABOUT THE SLIDESHOW

A slideshow of photographs of New Zealand, by Ken McCown.
View Slideshow >>

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ken McCown is director of the Downtown Design Center at the School of Architecture at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada.
More Bio >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









MORE BY Ken McCown

02.21.13: Creatures of Helsinki
12.28.10: Full of Beauties
03.05.10: Designed Landscapes
10.18.09: Found Landscapes
More by Ken McCown >>