Paperback, 172 pages
Released: August 1998
Town-building in the Great Plains gets a fresh examination in Harris Stone’s final book. Form and consequences of the inhabitation of the plains landscape are explored, from the rural roads and farms to industrial parks. Main Street—once a humble commercial lane—now extends to an international airport. Here, Stone argues, the formation of towns has been based largely on the play of economic forces, without sentiment or prior attachment to place. In envisioning humane and rational improvements, he suggests that older notions of settlement be left behind in order to come to grips with the unfolding realities of the dispersed city.
Beautifully hand-lettered and illustrated throughout, this thought-provoking work will appeal to architects, planners, historians, cultural geographers, and anyone interested in the interplay between people and vernacular form.
Both revealing and rare in its passion, combining craft with soul. More than a sketchbook, Dispersed City of the Plains is a diary of an architect’s struggle to reconcile the issues of community with those of town planning. I particularly recommend it to designers with interests that extend beyond the empty ‘formalism’ which Stone’s work so insightfully challenges.
A powerful and moving book about Americans and their land and buildings that invites not nostalgia or lament for a lost past, but a more intelligent and generous embrace of all that still remains . . . the acuity of Harris Stone’s eye and the catholic sweep of his gaze, whether observing the barbed-wire fence or the one-room schoolhouse, are matched by an incomparable hand and mind in recording them for our reflection.
It is both refreshing and informative to read a book that visually presents the reader with an atmosphere of engagement, interaction, malleability, and imprecision. Such was my mood while reading the hand-scribed text and viewing the wonderful sketches illustrating the authors’ beliefs and values . . . The book succeeds on several intellectual levels: it presents valuable historical references for the development of towns and cities on the Great Plains; it exposes the materiality and construction, and painful choices, in the restoration and rehabilitation of historic structures; and it lends a frame of values and iconographic references to the overlooked and little appreciated dispersed places and architecture of the middle territory of the United States . . . Harris Stone and his associates have given us an invaluable insight into a special regional context of place and their view of the forces that have made it the way it is.
A sample from Dispersed City of the Plains: