Clay, Grady. Close-Up: How
to Read the American City. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago
Press, 1973 and 1980. 192 p. Many black and white photographs and
maps. Notes, Sources of Illustrations, and Index sections.
In Close-Up, urban observer
and commentator, Grady Clay, takes an unconventional approach to reading and
interpreting the man-made American cultural landscape. Clay served as
the editor of Landscape Architecture Magazine from 1960 to 1984 and was
a longtime urban affairs specialist for the Louisville Courier Journal.
The premise of this book is that there are no secrets in our everyday landscape,
only undisclosed evidence waiting to be unturned and compiled. In this
work, Clay provides the reader with short cuts, mental games, and various analytical
tools, which can be applied to the ordinary landscape. He advocates moving
away from elitist architectural terminology and proposes a new language for
describing landscape components such as fixes, epitome districts, fronts, strips,
beats, stacks, sinks, and vantages. Originally written in 1972 and republished
in 1980, this book is somewhat dated in the sense that the landscape, culture,
and attitudes that Clay studied twenty years ago have changed a great deal.
For instance, today retail commercial strips feature superstores, environmental
concerns often influence development, and the computer super highway is as important
as major interstates. Given these changes, Close-Up warrants close reading
by anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of the ordinary landscape
most people continue to take for granted. [J. Kille]