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Interviews

General

“Tensions of Change: A Conversation with Anne Whiston Spirn,”

2003, with Laura Muthler White

“Anne Whiston Spirn, professor of landscape architecture and planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has traveled the world, studying, photographing, and writing about landscapes. She has also devoted nearly twenty years to working with the schoolchildren and residents of West Philadelphia, teaching them to read and to shape the landscapes of their own urban neighborhoods. She is artist, scholar, critic, designer, and the author of two books, The Granite Garden: Urban Nature and Human Design (Basic Books, 1984) and The Language of Landscape (Yale University Press, 1998). She is currently at work on her third book, The Eye Is a Door, which will feature her color photography as well as her essays. Anne lives in Nahant, Massachusetts, at the end of a mile-long causeway reaching out into Massachusetts Bay. I phoned her at her home on a stormy Friday evening in July of 2003.”

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“Building the Urban Landscape,”

Architecture Boston, 2001, with Hubert Murray

“Anne Whiston Spirn recently returned to Boston as professor of landscape architecture and planning at MIT. From 1986-2000, she was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where she chaired the department of landscape architecture and planning and serves as co-director of the urban studies program. She is the author of The Language of Landscape (Yale University Press, 1998) and The Granite Garden: Urban Nature and Human Design (Basic Books, 1984).

Hubert Murray is principal of Hubert Murray Architect + Planner in Cambridge; his work has included projects in the United States, Britain, and East Africa. He has also taught architecture in London and Nairobi.”

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“Interview with Anne Whiston Spirn: The Case for Practice Professorships,”

Penn in Ink, 1994

“Anne Whiston Spirn is Professor of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at GSFA and author of The Granite Garden: Urban Nature and Human Design, 1984 winner of the ASLA President’s Award of Excellence. Currently on leave from Penn, she is writing three books of her own and co-authoring or contributing to six more. She has also accepted invitations from the University of California Humanities Research Institute to be a 1994 Fellow in a six-month research seminar on “Reinventing Nature” and from the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC to be a guest scholar in urban studies this summer. Spirn took time from her demanding schedule to answer questions about her work and the profession of landscape architecture.”

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“Urban Nature and City Design,”

Kagaku, 2001, Kazuhiko Takeuchi
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Daring to Look

“Dorothea Lange: Daring to Look,”

All Things Consdered, National Public Radio, July 20, 2008, with Andrea Seabrook

There's a black-and-white photograph that is one of the most enduring images of the Great Depression. Titled "Migrant Mother," it shows a poor farmworker. Her hand touches her face in worry, and two ragged children cling to her shoulders. A baby is wrapped in cloth in the mother's lap. The image of Florence Owens Thompson and her children taken in 1936 in Nipomo, Calif., is one of the most reproduced photographs in history. The photographer behind this iconic work was Dorothea Lange.

"Migrant Mother" anchors a new book about Lange's Depression-era chronicles. Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange's Photographs and Reports from the Field, written by MIT professor Anne Whiston Spirn, documents hundreds of Lange's photos and the descriptions she wrote of them.

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“Looking at Dorothea Lange,”

Here and Now, WBUR National Public Radio, March 6, 2009, with Robin Young

MIT Professor Anne Whiston Spirn, whose book is called “Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange’s Photographs & Reports from the Field,” writes about how Dorothea Lange, the photographer hired in the New Deal to document the plight of migrant workers, revealed much more than meets the eye about the poverty-stricken people in her photos. Professor Spirn traveled to the areas that Lange photographed, and compares then & now.

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“Memories of the Depression,”

Think Out Loud, Oregon Public Radio, September 8, 2008, with Emily Harris and David Miller

Glen Wardlaw was a young boy when his family moved to Oregon from Arkansas at the height of the Great Depression. He remembers the journey to his family's new home in Ontario Heights, near the Idaho border, as dusty and hot. The Wardlaw family, visited by the iconic photographer Dorothea Lange, survived that journey and dug their roots into Oregon soil.

Anne Whiston Spirn, a professor of landscape architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tracked down Wardlaw, now 78, in Nampa, Idaho while researching a book on Lange. In that book, Daring to Look, Spirn explores Lange's journeys to several parts of the country, including the Pacific Northwest. We'll talk with Wardlaw about his memories of those times, and to Spirn about how Lange filtered his family's experience and the experiences of many others who came to this region through her camera lens.

We're looking for Depressions-era stories, for tales that will illustrate how people coped with the worst of times. Did you grow up in the Depression? What day-to-day memories do you still have of those times? Did your parents or grandparents tell you stories about how they survived? And how did those tough times shape where we live today?

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“Daring to Look,”

The Veronica Rueckert Show, Wisconisn Public Radio, November 28, 2008

Lange said, "No country has ever closely scrutinized itself visually." Veronica Rueckert and Anne Whiston Spirn examine the life and work of legendary photographer Dorothea Lange.

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“Daring to Look,”

The Carrboro Book Beat, Carrboro Community Radio, North Carolina, December 1, 2008, with Audrey Layden and Paul Nagy

Anne Whiston Spirn: Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange's Photographs and Reports from the Field. In 1939, Lange worked for the Farm Security Administration in North Carolina, taking photographs in Wake, Orange, Person, Granville and Chatham counties. "Anne Whiston Spirn has hit the nail on the head: she knows the secret of understanding good photography - and of understanding Dorothea Lange's Life as well. An astonishing book" - Rondal Partridge, photographer and former assistant to Lange

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The Language of Landscape

“The Language of Landscape,”

Dialogue, Public Radio International, December 1999, with George Seay

“We read books to read ourselves and the world around us, to learn the coordinates of our lives by situating them in other lives and in our surroundings. What rewards there are, then, in a book that gives us a new language, the language of landscape, to interpret and understand what nature and human hands have wrought about us. This language allows us a greater expression of E. M. Forester’s timely injunction “only connect,” and it reminds us that we are part of the whole. My guest is Anne Whiston Spirn, author of The Language of Landscape.”

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“The Language of Landscape,”

To the Best of Our Knowledge, Wisconsin Public Radio, January 1999

“The Language of Landscape and the West Philadelphia Landscape Project,”

Todd Mundt Show, Michigan Public Radio, July 2000

 

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The Granite Garden: Urban Nature and Human Design

Dialogue, Public Radio International,

January 1995, with George Seay

“Let’s think about the city, the one we live in and the one we could live in if we bent our energies and resources to creating the most habitable, aesthetically pleasing urban space that we could. Now this is an entirely appropriate exercise, for beyond physical space cities occupy a place in the realm of human possibilities and are a reflection of our social spirit. To think of the city this way means having a vision of it and to help us define that vision I’m pleased to welcome Anne Spirn, author and professor in the department of landscape architecture and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania.

Anne you have been called, and I think very aptly after reading your work, an urban visionary. I think that owes to the depth of practical insight and, quite frankly, poetic prose you bring to your writings on urban space. I’d also say you’re something of a historian, and I’d like to start us with a reference to history.”

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