A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams

A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams

3.8 8
by Michael Pollan
     
 

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"A room of one's own: is there anybody who hasn't at one time or another wished for such a place, hasn't turned those soft words over until they'd assumed a habitable shape?"

When writer Michael Pollan decided to plant a garden, the result was an award-winning treatise on the borders between nature and contemporary life, the acclaimed bestseller Second…  See more details below

Overview

"A room of one's own: is there anybody who hasn't at one time or another wished for such a place, hasn't turned those soft words over until they'd assumed a habitable shape?"

When writer Michael Pollan decided to plant a garden, the result was an award-winning treatise on the borders between nature and contemporary life, the acclaimed bestseller Second Nature. Now Pollan turns his sharp insight to the craft of building, as he recounts the process of designing and constructing a small one-room structure on his rural Connecticut property—a place in which he hoped to read, write and daydream, built with his two own unhandy hands.

Invoking the titans of architecture, literature and philosophy, from Vitrivius to Thoreau, from the Chinese masters of feng shui to the revolutionary Frank Lloyd Wright, Pollan brilliantly chronicles a realm of blueprints, joints and trusses as he peers into the ephemeral nature of "houseness" itself. From the spark of an idea to the search for a perfect site to the raising of a ridgepole, Pollan revels in the infinitely detailed, complex process of creating a finished structure. At once superbly written, informative and enormously entertaining, A Place of My Own is for anyone who has ever wondered how the walls around us take shape—and how we might shape them ourselves.


A Place of My Own recounts his two-and-a-half-year journey of discovery in an absorbing narrative that deftly weaves the day-to-day work of design and building—from siting to blueprint, from the pouring of foundations to finish carpentry—with reflections on everything form the power of place to shape our lives to the question of what constitutes "real work" in a technological society.

A book about craft that is itself beautifully crafted, linking the world of the body and material things with the realm of mind, heart, and spirit, A Place of My Own has received extraordinary praise: —>

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Pollan, a freelance writer, columnist (House & Garden) and editor (Harper's) with no knowledge or experience as a carpenter or builder, decided he wanted a place of his own to write inDan elegant "hut" with electricity but without plumbing to be built somewhere behind his house in rural ConnecticutDand he would build it himself. His aim was "to get away from words," and he signed on a sympathetic professional architect from Harvard Square and a not always patient carpenter. His account of the adventure, which in fact is very involved with words, follows the project from its theoretical stage, choosing the exact site (which characteristically included research into classical Roman, Ming dynasty Chinese, 18th-century British and contemporary "scientific" concepts of site selection), drawing the plans (something of a crash course in contemporary architectural theory) andDfinally leaving theory in the dustDdigging the footings, raising the uprights, laying the roof (perhaps the most entertaining section), cutting in windows and threading the electrical wires. Pollan has a self-admitted weakness for overanalysis, but it is a human failing that should appeal to anyone drawn to his book in the first place. Thoreau gets mentioned a lot, as do Jefferson and Frank Lloyd Wright, but as the project moves toward completionDmore expensively, of course, than he ever expectedDPollan comes to appreciate some very nontheoretical distinctions, such as the difference between windows that swing inward and ones that swing outward. The result is a very special armchair adventure. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Wanting to have a place of his own where he could think and write, Pollan decided to erect a small structure in the woods behind his house. Fancying himself a modern-day Thoreau, he wanted to build his "dream hut" with his own hands, even though he had no carpentry skills or experience. We learn very little about how to build a small structure; the majority of this book is devoted to Pollan's pretentious musings about a variety of architectural theories and about his interaction with the architect and carpenter who helped him (wasn't this supposed to be a simple structure?). Although it cost Pollan $125 per square foot and took him two and one-half years to build, ultimately it is the reader who works the hardest. Libraries serving those with a strong interest in architecture will want this title; other libraries should skip this book.-Jonathan Hershey, Akron-Summit Cty. P.L., Ohio
Scott Veale
This personal and practical meditation on do-it-yourselfism...is as much about soul-searching as it is about hammering nails. "Sagacity abounds in this book," Verlyn Klinkenborg said. -- Scott Veale, The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
An editor at Harper's magazine, Pollan (Second Nature, 1991) spent two and a half years of Saturday afternoons building a "writing house" in the backyard of his northwestern Connecticut home.

"I wanted not only a room of my own," he writes, "but a room of my own making." A "radically unhandy man," he sought the guidance of two "Virgils": architect Charles Myer and handyman/carpenter Joe Benney. Pollan wanted a building custom- suited to his needs as a writer, beginning with the site itself. He found pertinent advice in the works of 18th-century writers such as Pope, Walpole, and Addison, but also made serious study of feng shui, a Chinese art of spiritual landscape. He settled on a site next to a large bolder, overlooking his house and pond. Myer's design, "basically a pair of bookshelves holding up a room," provided for an 8-by-13 hut with computer, fax machine, CD player, printer, and stove all within easy reach of Pollan's writing desk. There was tension from the start between the builder and the architect, with Benney making remarks about architects with their heads "in the clouds, if not someplace worse." As the two lead him through the process, from site location to blueprint and from pouring the footers to framing and setting the roof, Pollan muses on philosophy and architecture, with observations on everyone from Roman architect Vitruvius to Hannah Arendt and Frank Lloyd Wright. When the building is done, he's built "a good place to spend the day . . . between two walls of books in front of a big window overlooking life."

An engrossing, charming enterprise, but after all his poetic waxing for "a place of solitude a few steps off the beaten track," Pollan inexplicably denies himself and the reader a payoff passage that finds him comfortably seated at desk, pen in hand, ready for writing.

From the Publisher
"A glorious piece of prose . . . Pollan leads readers on his adventure with humor and grace."
-Chicago Tribune

"A captivating and informative adventure."
-John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

"An utterly terrific book . . . an inspired meditation on the complex relationship between space, the human body, and the human spirit."
-Francine du Plessix Gray

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781441836861
Publisher:
Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
08/28/2010
Edition description:
Unabridged
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.60(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"A glorious piece of prose . . . Pollan leads readers on his adventure with humor and grace."
-Chicago Tribune

"A captivating and informative adventure."
-John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

"An utterly terrific book . . . an inspired meditation on the complex relationship between space, the human body, and the human spirit."
-Francine du Plessix Gray

Meet the Author

Michael Pollan is the author of five books: Second Nature, A Place of My Own, The Botany of Desire, which received the Borders Original Voices Award for the best nonfiction work of 2001 and was recognized as a best book of the year by the American Booksellers Association and Amazon, and the national bestellers, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and In Defense of Food.

A longtime contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, Pollan is also the Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley. His writing on food and agriculture has won numerous awards, including the Reuters/World Conservation Union Global Award in Environmental Journalism, the James Beard Award, and the Genesis Award from the American Humane Association.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
San Francisco Bay Area, California
Date of Birth:
February 6, 1955
Place of Birth:
Long Island, New York
Education:
Bennington College, Oxford University, and Columbia University
Website:
http://michaelpollan.com/

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