Who was this peripatetic observer of suburbia that I heard on NPR so long ago?
October 10, 2007 1:29 PM   Subscribe

I heard a story on NPR some time ago, and am having no luck finding it now. It was about a man, possibly a professor of architecture, who taught students how to mindfully walk and study the suburban landscape. Who was this person?

...and when I say 'some time ago', either on Morning Edition or All Things Considered.

My google-fu has failed me, as has a search of NPR's site. The story seemed specifically about these walks he would make with his students, pointing out things in the landscape and visible infrastructure that might be otherwise missed.

In one case, he pointed out some interesting things about the overhead power/phone/cable lines.

In another example, he pointed out that surveying flags were starting to pop up alongside old railroad lines and in other areas. From this he made some predictions about future development of these (apparently) long-neglected areas.

Does this ring any bells with anyone? Who was this man, and where can I learn more about him? Was it possibly Christopher Alexander? My impression from memory was that interviewee was somewhat older, and I don't recall him speaking with any sort of accent. He may have been either a professor of architecture, or possibly urban planning.

It seems to have been one of those stories that stuck with me for a long time, because it has since changed the way I observe the man-made objects in my local area - overhead wires, pipelines, rail lines, oddball antennas, and so on. It's gnawed at me since that I don't know who this was.
posted by jquinby to Education (12 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: John Stilgoe?
posted by occhiblu at 1:35 PM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

(Stilgoe's website)
posted by occhiblu at 1:36 PM on October 10, 2007

Response by poster: Damnation, I think that's him. And he has books to boot!
posted by jquinby at 1:42 PM on October 10, 2007

Response by poster: Moreover, this might have been the story. Thanks, metafilter!
posted by jquinby at 1:45 PM on October 10, 2007

I've also heard James Kunstler being interviewed on NPR before. His website is here.
posted by Forktine at 1:48 PM on October 10, 2007

I actually did one of those walks with Stilgoe, though at the time I had no idea who he was. He's the one who taught me the phrase desire lines, which I've loved ever since.
posted by occhiblu at 1:59 PM on October 10, 2007

Stiloe sounds fascinating—thanks for asking the question, so that I could find out about him!
posted by languagehat at 2:46 PM on October 10, 2007

Er, Stilgoe, I mean. Pay attention, languagehat!
posted by languagehat at 2:47 PM on October 10, 2007

Wow, this is great. Thanks for the links.
posted by unknowncommand at 3:37 PM on October 10, 2007

also see Guy Debord and situationist international

and possibly the song Tannhauser/Derive by refused. ;)
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 7:36 PM on October 10, 2007

Response by poster: For the sake of completeness, here are two books that might aid the mindful (sub)urban observer.

Infrastructure: A Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape
A Field Guide to Roadside Technology

I'm starting to mull over the possibility of a FPP on this topic.
posted by jquinby at 6:52 AM on October 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm starting to mull over the possibility of a FPP on this topic.

Great topic for a FPP. The infrastructure book you link has been mentioned here before, don't know if it was on MeFi or AskMe.
posted by Forktine at 7:18 AM on October 11, 2007

« Older Pop goes the pouch spring   |   And yes, I did just get a really bad pimple before... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.