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Context: Architecture And The Genius Of Place

In classical Roman religion, a genius loci (plural genii locorum) was the protective spirit of a place. It was often depicted in religious iconography as a figure holding attributes such as a cornucopia, patera (libation bowl) or snake. Many Roman altars found throughout the Western Roman Empire were dedicated to a particular genius loci. The Roman imperial cults of the Emperor and the imperial house developed in part in connections with the sacrifices made by neighborhood associations (vici) to the local genius. These 265 local districts[1] had their cult organised around the Lares Compitales (guardian spirits or lares of the crossroads), which the emperor Augustus transformed into Lares Augusti along with the Genius Augusti.[2] The emperor's genius is then regarded as the genius loci of the Roman Empire as a whole.

Context: Architecture and the Genius of Place

In contemporary usage, genius loci usually refers to a location's distinctive atmosphere, or a "spirit of the place", rather than necessarily a guardian spirit. An example of contemporary usage might be along the lines of "Light reveals the genius loci of a place."

A priori, archetype, and genius loci are the primary principals of Neo-Rationalism or New Rationalism. Pioneered by the Italian architect Aldo Rossi, Neo-Rationalism developed in the light of a re-evaluation of the work of Giuseppe Terragni, and gained momentum through the work of Giorgio Grassi. Characterized by elemental vernacular forms and an adaptation to the existing environment, the Neo-Rationalist style has adherents beyond architecture in the greater world of art.

In the context of modern architectural theory, genius loci has profound implications for place-making, falling within the philosophical branch of phenomenology. This field of architectural discourse is explored most notably by the theorist Christian Norberg-Schulz in his book, Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture.

In the Dungeons and Dragons 3.0 edition book the Epic Level Handbook, the genius loci is a malign, powerful ooze that mimics the landscape and has no intelligence of its own. It can magically enslave a visitor, whose mind affects the genius loci's behaviour. It is spontaneously generated when a place is undisturbed for a long time.[5]

In The Dresden Files, a genius loci is an elemental spirit of a place. The island of Demonreach has its own genius loci, also named Demonreach, which is omniscient with regards to its own island. Wizards can form a spiritual connection with a genius loci and the place it represents.[citation needed]

Brooks suggested that a solution to this ambiguity with regard to the genius loci is to accept that spirit of place has its own legitimacy as a means of preventing homogenised design, rather than simply reflecting human feelings about places.

Human innovation has been spoiled by access to energy and materials that have allowed us to reshape place according to our needs. Instead of adapting to place, as all organisms in nature do, we have adapted the place to us. This has allowed the architecture of Melbourne, Toronto, London and Dubai to all look and behave similarly, despite the incredible diversity of habitat conditions.

Frederick Law Olmsted is arguably the most important historical figure that the average American knows the least about. Best remembered for his landscape architecture, from New York's Central Park to Boston's Emerald Necklace to Stanford University's campus, Olmsted was also an influential journalist, early voice for the environment, and abolitionist credited with helping dissuade England from joining the South in the Civil War. This momentous career was shadowed by a tragic personal life, also fully portrayed here.Most of all, he was a social reformer. He didn't simply create places that were beautiful in the abstract. An awesome and timeless intent stands behind Olmsted's designs, allowing his work to survive to the present day. With our urgent need to revitalize cities and a widespread yearning for green space, his work is more relevant now than it was during his lifetime. Justin Martin restores Olmsted to his rightful place in the pantheon of great Americans.

"The remarkable story of America's first, and still foremost, landscape architect...Martin helps explain the driven, artistic temperament that informed the famed landscapes. He persuasively casts Olmsted as essentially a social reformer whose passion for meaningful work found its most complete expression in the creation of public spaces intended for the enjoyment of all. A revealing look at a still-underappreciated giant whose work touches posterity more intimately and more delightfully than many of his distinguished Civil War-era contemporaries."—Kirkus Reviews"[A] wide-ranging, surprisingly revealing biography...Martin brings the Hartford-born Olmsted to life...An eye-opening, much-needed biography of a man whose work continues to inspire...An illuminating, sorely-needed biography."—Boston Globe"Martin does an excellent job of tracing the development of this multitalented genius and-by the book's end-makes a powerful case for Olmsted as a reformer who not only created some of the world's most beautiful parkland but also helped to shape our lives and public spaces as we know them today."—Christian Science Monitor "A full-scale biography."—Niagara Gazette"[A] straightforward and enjoyable book...Reading this book, you get a full picture of the man, a man frustratingly immature and coddled for so many years, a man struck by personal tragedies...and ultimately a man whose achievements warrant a full-length biography."—The Daily Green"Martin is good at shedding light on the less familiar aspects of Olmsted's life. Having written biographies of Alan Greenspan and Ralph Nader, he seems to know his way around rather remote personalities...Engaging."—Wall Street Journal"A comprehensive journal of Frederick Law Olmsted's life written with great precision and exhaustive historical specifications; but these elements do not get in the way of a well-told tale...Highly recommended."—New York Journal of Books"A workmanlike biography; it adequately examines the balance between Olmsted's public and private personae."—Library Journal"[An] ardent biography...Olmsted's sense of adventure compelled him to embark upon a turbulent stretch as a sailor, which Martin renders as thrillingly as any maritime tale...Martin presents Olmsted's era in all its glory, with the intimate affairs and staggering accomplishments of the great man unfolding against the vivid backdrop of 19th-century America."—Publishers Weekly"Olmsted led one of the most productive and influential lives in American history, yet owing to the diffusiveness of his early ventures and the nature of his principal legacy, landscape architecture, he has never attained the name recognition of some of his more singularly focused peers. Justin Martin's engaging new biography will help to change that perception...Martin has a particular skill for identifying and bringing forth the compelling aspects of the projects chosen for inclusion...A fast-moving and fascinating narrative of the life of one of America's great visionary figures."—Buffalo News"An excellent book...Martin tells Olmsted's life story in such a way as to bring the reader into Olmsted's life. It is an enjoyable read that flows smoothly. A biography is enjoyable both because the subject has led an interesting life AND because the author has presented that life in a readable way. Genius of Place has just that combination. I highly recommend it."—American History Blog"This biography of the landscape designer who stamped Manhattan green shows him to be a troubled idealist who had an unlucky personal life, but who nonetheless shaped some of the most important public spaces in America."—Manhattan "The story of Olmsted's life offers today's readers an opportunity to see what effect one energetic and imaginative person had on the formation of today's nation. The author delivers this fascinating story in a prose that invites the reader to complete the book in one sitting-and then ask for more."—Roanoke Times "Few men have written their signature across our public spaces as vividly, personally, and influentially as Olmsted...Justin Martin's first-ever full-scale biography reveals other fascinating sides of the famed landscape designer as well, including reformer and journalist."—Barnes and Noble Review "Martin has done a fine job in presenting the life of a fascinating American."—Providence Journal"A welcome exception to the rule that biographies don't make easy reading...Much original research went into this biography."—Internet Review of Books"Rich and meticulously-researched, Justin Martin's biography makes a convincing case for Olmsted as 'The most important American historical figure that the average person knows the least about.'"—The Daily"[A] fascinating new biography."—Norfolk Virginian-Pilot "Olmsted designed more than thirty major city parks, the U.S. Capitol grounds, several university campuses, and many planned communities. But there's much more to Olmsted's life, as Justin Martin's Genius of Place makes abundantly clear...A rich story of a remarkable life."—Rocky Mountain Land Library"A well written and easy to follow biography. Justin Martin does an excellent job helping to bring this figure to life."—Portland Book Review"A good (and surprising) read...An intimate portrait...A fine biography of a man who helped shape modern America."—Hudson Valley News "Absorbing...Lively...Olmsted's life story is fabulous biographical material, and Martin largely makes the most of it. In a brisk, unvarnished style, he artfully balances Olmsted's achievements with his personal limitations."—Seattle Times"Exhaustively researched and clearly written, this volume should become the standard for students of both history and design."—Landscape Architecture "Genius of Place offers more than the legacy of a man who accomplished 'more than most people could in three lifetimes.' Martin provides an intimate portrayal of man himself, whose life was both blessed with genius and plagued by tragedy."—E: The Environmental Magazine "Provides a rich history of early America as well as the compelling life story of 19th century landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted...Rich with historical details of much of America's finest landscapes...A thoroughly enjoyable book."—"Reading Genius of Place feels like listening to Olmsted's best friend dishing about the private life of a real person...Martin makes a convincing argument that Olmsted saw all of his work, from park-making to gold mining, as social reform. He points out the subtle ironies of Olmstead's life and provides historical and personal background without bogging the reader down or disrupting the flow of the narrative...Genius of Place is far more than a survey of Olmsted's creations. It's a tightly woven narrative that ties together his personal life, his many vocations and his impact on a turbulent era."—Charleston Post and Courier"Illuminates Olmsted's major achievements as a visionary artist, social reformer, pioneering environmentalist, and founder of the modern profession of landscape architecture...[Martin's] book does not disappoint in the totality of its coverage...It also provides an intimate account of the personal tragedies and illnesses that plagued Olmsted throughout his life and fueled his near obsessive work ethic...[Martin's] intriguing account of Olmsted's life...captures the significance of his legacy."—The Dirt (blog of the American Society of Landscape Architects, "Best Books of 2011")"Martin takes on the extraordinarily multifaceted life and career of the man known for his design of Central Park but whose legacy reaches far deeper and wider."—Reference and Research Book News 041b061a72


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