Terrain Vague

Miyazaki's Spirited Away“Whether it was ever Arcadian, or even faux-rural, is debatable. But it has obstinately survived, and is a candidate for that fashionable new category of landscape, ‘edge-land’. Victor Hugo in Les Misérables called this kind of undefined, hybrid habitat terrain vague, a landscape ‘somewhat ugly but bizarre, made up of two different natures, which surrounds certain great cities’. ‘To observe the city edge,’ Hugo wrote, ‘is to observe an amphibian. End of trees, beginning of roofs, end of grass, beginning of paving stones, end of ploughed fields, beginning of shops, the end of the beaten track, the beginning of the passions, the end of the murmur of things divine, the beginning of the noise of humankind.’ Except that the original vision of Metroland was not one of such sharp ends and beginnings, but one where trees, pavements, fields, moments of rhapsody and trips to the shops would be seamlessly interleaved. Such a harmonious marriage did materialize in a few places, until the noise of humankind became too overpowering. But something else also began to take shape around Metroland, a fraying of its neat edges, a wayward outgrowth that seemed to me, scavenging for ideas in it for much of my life, more interestingly mutable, and more inspiringly upstart than any part of its sedate interior.” – Richard Mabey

“If this fantastic metropolis never quite materialized, it nonetheless became our supreme goal, a beacon blazing throughout the development of a uniquely American culture defined by more than hope. It was the promise of something greater, something transcendent-not in some ghostly afterlife, but here, in fact upon this solid Earth.” – Gordon Theisen

“Today, in the century of man’s greatest technological achievement, the wilderness at last comes into its own. Man no longer needs God, and he can live in the desert on his own resources. He can build there his fantastic, protected cities of withdrawal and experimentation and vice. The glittering towns that spring up overnight in the desert are no longer images of the City of God, coming down from heaven to enlighten the world with the vision of peace.” – Thomas Merton

In memory of Ralph J. Stephenson

Gore Vidal, Wrong Again

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