As human populations inhabiting cities have grown dramatically, we have lost the ability to understand and even to see the natural world around us. We lack the vocabulary to describe our surroundings, and this lack of understanding limits our ability as citizens to contribute to political decisions about the landscape of cities, especially at the edges where land meets water.
Bay Lexicon, a field guide to San Francisco's shoreline, is a case study in establishing a working language for hybrid landscapes. Centred on a walk along the edge of the iconic San Francisco Bay, it documents, deciphers, and classifies the places and phenomena a person encounters – and the forces, histories, and interactions that underlie what is visible. In a unique synthesis of text and drawing, Jane Wolff applies analytical and representational tools based in design and documentary work to findings from the fields of geography, environmental and cultural history, public policy, urban ecology, and landscape studies. As our cities face increasing pressure caused by climate change, we will need to reimagine them in terms that do justice to their complexity. Bay Lexicon's methods for building landscape literacy are meant for translation, adaptation, and use far beyond San Francisco Bay.
Through activist scholarship that cuts across disciplinary boundaries and levels of expertise, this book examines how the landscape at the water's edge works, documents its historical evolution, brings its citizens' values to light, and frames conversations about how and why it might change.
About the author
Jane Wolff is associate professor at the University of Toronto's Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design.
"The toolkit Jane Wolff has devised can be, and should be, used as a template for understanding a large number of hybrid places that are threatened by sea-level rise and climate change." Mark L. Hineline, Michigan State University and author of Ground Truth: A Guide to Tracking Climate Change at Home
“One of the major attractions of both Delta Primer and Bay Lexicon is that the reader is never lost. The maps and the texts mean that even a stranger to the bay and the delta soon knows her way around. Wolff’s love of beauty also goes a long way toward making friends and converting citizens to her undogmatic ways of looking at land and water, not as two alien places separated from one another, but interconnected, and in a sense twins and doubles of one another, two halves of a whole that make up our blue planet.” Counterpunch
"Bay Lexicon is a beautiful, masterful story of landscapes and the processes that shape and make them. Through a compelling synergy of drawing and defining, revealing and relating, Jane Wolff builds a simple but powerfully legible language of landscape – a language urgently needed to build shared meaning and stewardship of place." Nina-Marie Lister, Ryerson University