PLACEWAYS: A Theory of the Human Environment by E.V. Walter

PLACEWAYS: A Theory of the Human Environment

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Walter (Terror and Resistance: A Study of Political Violence, 1969) is a Boston Univ. professor of sociology and ""topistics,"" a holistic study of places that aims to restore symbolic values to city planning, urban renewal, and other environmental concerns. Here, via a learned exploration of the function of place in other cultures and times, Walter argues that abstract/mechanistic models of the human environment have led to the construction in our society of ""dead places"" devoid of the essential images, memories, and feelings necessary for proper livability. Walter experienced firsthand the miseries brought about by poor city planning when, in the 1950's, he witnessed the tearing down of Boston's West End and, in the late 1960's, lived in one of the worst housing projects of that city. These experiences led him to his investigation of good places and bad places, sick places and sacred ones--detailed here with looks at Boston, Manchester, Greece; Ice Age Culture and the haunts of Australian aborigines, etc.--as he attempts to recover an archaic, but to him still viable, sense and meaning of place that older, non-European societies have taken for granted. Walter reconnects here with elements mostly forgotten in the Western intellectual tradition, too, looking to what he calls a ""grounded Platonism"" to enlarge our sensitivity to the layers of meaning inherent in the natural land and built environment. Finally, he concludes that in order to ""rebuild the obvious world,"" we should ""start by rebuilding ourselves,"" readopting ""the archaic way of seeing, thinking, and caring."" A dense, brilliant, penetrating work that's by no means easy going--but which carries a message worth pondering by those interested in the spiritual quality of our environments.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1988
ISBN: 0807842001
Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina Press