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Paradoxes of Green

Landscapes of a City-State

Gareth Doherty (Author)


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This innovative multidisciplinary study considers the concept of green from multiple perspectives—aesthetic, architectural, environmental, political, and social—in the Kingdom of Bahrain, where green has a long and deep history of appearing cooling, productive, and prosperous—a radical contrast to the hot and hostile desert. Although green is often celebrated in cities as a counter to gray urban environments, green has not always been good for cities. Similarly, manifestation of the color green in arid urban environments is often in direct conflict with the practice of green from an environmental point of view. This paradox is at the heart of the book. In arid environments such as Bahrain, the contradiction becomes extreme and even unsustainable.

Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork, Gareth Doherty explores the landscapes of Bahrain, where green represents a plethora of implicit human values and exists in dialectical tension with other culturally and environmentally significant colors and hues. Explicit in his book is the argument that concepts of color and object are mutually defining and thus a discussion about green becomes a discussion about the creation of space and place.

Notes on Transliteration and Translation
Preface and Acknowledgments

Introduction: Two Seas, Many Greens
1. Green Scenery
2. The Blueness of Green
3. How Green Can Become Red
4. The Memory of Date Palm Green
5. The Struggle for the Manama Greenbelt
6. The Promise of Beige
7. Brightening Green
8. The Whiteness of Green

List of Named Participants
Gareth Doherty is Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture and Senior Research Associate at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. He is coeditor of Is Landscape…? Essays on the Identity of Landscape and Ecological Urbanism. He is a founding editor of the journal New Geographies and editor-in-chief of New Geographies 3: Urbanisms of Color.
"Doherty is as comfortable reflecting on the aesthetic aspects of colour as he is describing the ecological implications of property development. . . the portrait Doherty paints is of a fascinating, quickly changing, and – yes – paradoxical place."—Environment and Urbanization
"Beautifully written." —Landscape Architecture Magazine
"The use of color in this book to build an ethnographic window into the country is enormously compelling, thought provoking and enlightening. A fascinating read and a call for much greater care in assuming greater greening translates to greater urban sustainability."—The Nature of Cities
"Paradoxes of Green: Landscapes of a City-State . . . is a successful hybrid of landscape writing and ethnography focused on the island nation of Bahrain. It presents a portrait of Bahrainis’ rich and evolving relationship with their landscape as well as a model for future studies."—The Dirt, uniting the built & natural environments
"These qualms aside, Paradoxes of Green is a thoughtful contribution to the developing design anthropology literature, highlighting the at-times divergent meanings of a colour, exploring the networks that support it, and demonstrating the capacity for ethnography to provide a layered account of these complexities. Moreover, this book is a unique discussion of Bahraini history and a detailed account of the ways in which literal greening is a troubled substitute for ecologically sensitive development."—Human Ecology
"Despite the colorful history and identity of landscapes – whether the Irish countryside, American agrarian plains, or Persian Gulf deserts – color, and by extension actionable anthropological methods, has been conspicuously absent from recent discourse in the built environment. Paradoxes of Green offers a fresh perspective."—Design and Culture
"This work should be considered a major achievement for its exploration of the diverse landscapes of Bahrain and their continuous production and transformation, presented in an accessible manner which nevertheless does not reduce its challenging complexity."—Middle East Journal
"To identify Gareth Doherty’s Paradoxes of Green: Landscapes of a City-State as a multi-disciplinary investigation into ecological urbanism understates the book’s extraordinary reach into disciplines ranging from cultural anthropology, environmental design and urban planning to Middle Eastern Studies, political economy and landscape architecture... Borrowing from pictorial processes, Doherty juxtaposes color resonance with acute cultural analysis to create a conceptual abstraction comparable to a Pollock or Kandinsky whose paintings provided the inspiration for the book."—Leonardo
"The dazzling achievement of Paradoxes of Green is its eloquent and clear negotiation of the tricky problem of color from two points of view: on high, at the level of theory, and on the ground, where his personal observations give this important book such vitality. Gareth Doherty’s multidisciplinary range is breathtaking—essential to any consideration of color and its impact—and his deep knowledge of the region is impressive. This is an invaluable contribution to the understanding of an immensely challenging topic."—Charles A. Riley II, Professor of English, Baruch College, City University of New York, and author of Color Codes

"An utterly original, keenly observed ethnography, a thick description of the color green in the complex urban setting of Manama, Bahrain, by a landscape architect who walks its streets with only a camera, notebook, and water-coloring kit in hand. We absorb some insightful lessons about colors and their objects, not to mention the surprising roles of color—symbolic and practical—in urban design. Most profoundly for anthropologists, he demonstrates the importance of design to our understanding of urbanism and its materialities, and does so in delightful prose, laced with a sly sense of humor that is as engaging as it is trenchant. Brilliantly conceived at the intersection of architecture, urban design, anthropology, and Middle East studies, this is a truly interdisciplinary work, guaranteed to interest a wide readership."—Steven C. Caton, Khaled Bin Abdullah Bin Abdulrahman Al Saud Professor of Contemporary Arab Society, Harvard University

"Based on fieldwork in the small and arid Kingdom of Bahrain, Doherty forensically examines and expands what is currently understood by 'green.' Exploring the role human experience plays in framing a complex layering of meaning and significance in landscape and urbanism, Doherty artfully demonstrates how color and landscape are instrumental in shaping social relationships. This deeply profound book is not just for students and practitioners of landscape architecture and design, but for those interested in a radically different kind of ecology."—Kathryn Moore, Professor of Landscape Architecture, Birmingham City University, UK 


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