1st Edition

Reciprocal Landscapes Stories of Material Movements

By Jane Hutton Copyright 2020
    250 Pages 124 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    How are the far-away, invisible landscapes where materials come from related to the highly visible, urban landscapes where those same materials are installed? Reciprocal Landscapes: Stories of Material Movements traces five everyday landscape construction materials – fertilizer, stone, steel, trees, and wood – from seminal public landscapes in New York City, back to where they came from.

    Drawing from archival documents, photographs, and field trips, the author brings these two separate landscapes – the material’s source and the urban site where the material ended up – together, exploring themes of unequal ecological exchange, labor, and material flows. Each chapter follows a single material’s movement: guano from Peru that landed in Central Park in the 1860s, granite from Maine that paved Broadway in the 1890s, structural steel from Pittsburgh that restructured Riverside Park in the 1930s, London plane street trees grown on Rikers Island by incarcerated workers that were planted on Seventh Avenue north of Central Park in the 1950s, and the popular tropical hardwood, ipe, from northern Brazil installed in the High Line in the 2000s.

    Reciprocal Landscapes: Stories of Material Movements considers the social, political, and ecological entanglements of material practice, challenging readers to think of materials not as inert products but as continuous with land and the people that shape them, and to reimagine forms of construction in solidarity with people, other species, and landscapes elsewhere.


    Chapter 1. Inexhaustible Terrain: Guano from the Chincha Islands, Peru to Central Park, 1862

    Chapter 2. Range of Motions: Granite from Vinalhaven, Maine to Broadway, 1892

    Chapter 3. Rivers of Steel: Steel from Pittsburgh to Riverside Park, 1937

    Chapter 4. Breathing with Trees: London Plane Trees from Rikers Island to 7th Avenue, 1959

    Chapter 5. Arresting Decay: Tropical Hardwood from Para, Brazil to the High Line, 2009



    Jane Hutton is a landscape architect and teacher whose research looks at the expanded relations of material practice in design, examining linkages between the sources and construction sites of common building materials. Hutton is an Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Waterloo.

    "Reciprocal Landscapes shows us what matters about landscape by revealing what matter is doing in it – where it came from, why it was taken, and how it was extracted, worked, fought over, and transported. Original in conception, rigorous in execution, Hutton’s book is nothing less than a brilliant synthesis of materialisms ‘historical’ and ‘new’; an incisive model for the critical analysis of landscape." – Douglas Spencer, Director of Graduate Education and Associate Professor, Iowa State University, USA