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A place of my own the architecture of daydreams (original 1997; edition 2008)

by Michael Pollan

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9081516,730 (3.82)31
Michael Pollan's unmatched ability to draw lines of connection between our everyday experiences--whether eating, gardening, or building--and the natural world has been the basis for the popular success of his many works of nonfiction, including the genre-defining bestsellers, The Botany of Desire, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and In Defense of Food. With this updated edition of his earlier book A Place of My Own, listeners can revisit the inspired, intelligent, and often hilarious story of Pollan's realization of a room of his own--a small, wooden hut, his "shelter for daydreams"--built with his admittedly unhandy hands. Inspired by both Thoreau and Mr. Blandings, A Place of My Own not only works to convey the history and meaning of all human building, it also marks the connections between our bodies, our minds, and the natural world. " A]n inspired meditation on the complex relationship between space, the human body, and the human spirit." --Francine du Plessix Gray… (more)
Member:sarah4uk
Title:A place of my own the architecture of daydreams
Authors:Michael Pollan
Info:New York : Penguin Books, c2008.
Collections:calibre
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A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder by Michael Pollan (1997)

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Michael Pollan’s second book is chronicled in this, his search for a writing refuge. What’s it about? Getting up from the desk and doing physical labor, architecture, history, design, writing, family, woodworking, honesty, weather, accomplishments, philosophy, craft and writing-the-second-book. For a start.

This is a leisurely read, a slow one, to be savored. Extensive chapter endnotes and a bibliography of the many books mentioned are part of the backmatter, and much appreciated for those of us who want to explore more.

The story begins with the pending arrival of a first baby: the recently remodeled home Judith and Michael Pollan share will be too small to accommodate his writing area, her art studio and a nursery. They had a good experience with the architect (even though the delays and finances of remodeling are topics he ‘still won’t discuss’) so he’s engaged to draw up plans for a writing shed.

He recalls the discussions in detail, the back-and-forth of getting to a design that works on the site, that works in a practical way, and that pleases aesthetically. The architect’s character is drawn so well that I feel I know him. The same happens later with the builder, and the battles between those two are constant.

This might seem like a straightforward story – idea, design, build it – but in the telling of the tale, Pollan takes us on a journey through history. He’s a self-described researcher (I could relate to this immediately), someone who turns to books or articles when presented with a question. So he reads in that meandering way one does, getting lost in research and discovery, one volume mentioning another thinker or designer, then that person’s work must be investigated. Pollan shares all of this. An example of how he thinks:

Daydreaming does not enjoy tremendous prestige in our culture, which tends to regard it as unproductive thought. Writers perhaps appreciate its importance better than most, since a fair amount of what they call work consists of little more than daydreaming edited. Yet anyone who reads for pleasure should prize it too, for what is reading a good book but a daydream at second hand? Unlike any other form of thought, daydreaming is its own reward. For regardless of the result (if any), the very process of daydreaming is pleasurable. And, I would guess, is probably a psychological necessity. For isn’t it in our daydreams that we acquire some sense of what we are about?

If I found the first part of the book slow-going, it was because I didn’t accept his rhythm. Once I figured it out and settled in, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. It’s not an action story, and if that’s what you want, then stay away from this book.

On the other hand, if you like to wonder, ponder and imagine, then this is for you.
( )
  MLHart | May 22, 2020 |
I first came across the work of Michael Pollan while a student at the Farm School, in the Fall of 2008. “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” was one of our assigned readings, and I remember reading this text late into the night up in my little loft in the dormitory. Pollan goes about his journalism with an often-comical amateurism (I regularly find myself laughing as I read his prose). And yet, with his Zen “beginner’s mind” and poetic attention to detail, as well as viscously restrained editing (all of his books span a tightly curated quiver of topics, and are never more than a few hundred pages in length), Pollan always manages to get to the depth at which true meaning can be created and explored.

While reading Tedd Benson’s “Timberframe” I kept coming across quotes from a mysterious Pollan text: “A Place of My Own.” “But isn’t Pollan a food writer?” I thought to myself. My second book I read from Pollan was his recent text on psychedelics, “How to Change Your Mind.” I think of him as the foodie Berkeley type (I happen to have run into him last time I was at the Berkeley farmer’s market); what was he doing writing about architecture?

It turns out that Pollan’s second book, published in 1997, reveals an entirely different man (or at least a man in an entirely different context) then we find him in today. Apparently Pollan, his wife, and son, spent quite some time (more than a decade) living in Northwestern Connecticut. Being a ruddy New Englander myself, this rather raises my regard of him (until I think remember that he, for some reason, still resides in Berkeley—even while supposedly teaching at Harvard).

For a couple of years now, I’ve been daydreaming about building a sauna. Two winters ago I read a book on sauna construction. I live on land that is “in the family,” so to say, so I have enough trust in my tenure to consider building something. The place also is an open timber frame spanning three generations; so Pollan’s concept of “a place of my own” sounds extremely appealing.

During this time of coronavirus, I feel both a strong sense of nostalgia, as well as a sense of somehow being outside of my life. Given this coincidence of sentiments, I’ve been gravitating towards books like this one, books that bring us into ourselves while bringing us in contact with the tangible, the commonplace.

This is a book about Pollan going through the two-and-a-half-year-long process of building himself a writer’s cabin.

From the beginning, Pollan goes about this in a very different way than I would. Pollan says the only thing his father ever built was a cedar closet, during the construction of which, he happened to nail his toolbox back behind the paneling. In contrast, my father timber-framed the house I grew up in, and I’ve spent much of my life in contact with one form or another of craft.

So to come around to the first surprise: Pollan hired an architect to come up with a plan for his cabin! Although I intended to become an architect for some stretch of time in childhood (I still retain the graph-paper blueprints I made of glass dome houses), I’ve had effectively zero contact with them in my adult life. We recently constructed a substantial porch on my current home, and our contractor drew up the blueprint, not an architect. I can appreciate the importance of design process (I would consider myself a permaculturist), and I can see the ways that working with an architect enabled Pollan to achieve something he wouldn’t have been able to on his own.

The next surprise: he hires a contractor to work with him! This also ends up being a wise decision for Pollan, as his contractor serves as a mentor.

In the new foreword, composed in 2010, Pollan describes his journalism as muddling through the relationship between nature and culture. This is an intersection close to my heart. In this book, Pollan has somehow been able to explore the exceedingly obtuse history of architecture and private space in a text that is both tactile and accessible. With writing this good, I feel as though I could almost read anything Pollan decides to write about. He is likely the best non-fiction writer of which I’m aware.

By no means is this book dated. In many ways, it speaks to more fundamental truths than his writing on food and psychedelics. If you’re looking for a meditative reflection on space, the built environment, and the way that this all relates to our humanity and sensory experience, this book will delight. ( )
  willszal | Apr 11, 2020 |
A charming, modest account of author Michael Pollan building a tiny writing hut on his New England property. Like Second Nature before it, A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams spirals out into greater themes of humanity's place in the natural world (this time with a focus on architectural history) then, each time he is about to stretch too far into the abstract, Pollan returns with a little self-deprecating humour and/or some gentle ribbing of a modern school of architecture thought.

Sweet and thoughtful, but not quite as well honed as his later work, this extended essay is good inspiration for anyone trying to flesh out a personal space (as, currently, I am, in a new 390 ft^2 studio apartment).

3.5/5, rounded down because it's supposed to rain this weekend and I wanted to go camping; otherwise 4/5. ( )
  rabbit.blackberry | Oct 19, 2017 |
A charming, modest account of author Michael Pollan building a tiny writing hut on his New England property. Like Second Nature before it, A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams spirals out into greater themes of humanity's place in the natural world (this time with a focus on architectural history) then, each time he is about to stretch too far into the abstract, Pollan returns with a little self-deprecating humour and/or some gentle ribbing of a modern school of architecture thought.

Sweet and thoughtful, but not quite as well honed as his later work, this extended essay is good inspiration for anyone trying to flesh out a personal space (as, currently, I am, in a new 390 ft^2 studio apartment).

3.5/5, rounded down because it's supposed to rain this weekend and I wanted to go camping; otherwise 4/5. ( )
  rabbit.blackberry | Oct 19, 2017 |
Pollan approaches even architecture, construction, and woodworking with the soul of a writer. As he learns to use a chainsaw, frame a building, and shingle a roof, he can't help but wax poetic about the romance and philosophy of windows and trim. A Place of My Own is a unique blend of building history, architectural theory, and the poetry of spaces as a writer delves into the world of each in his quest to design and build his own freestanding workspace. Pollan plods at times through dense theory, but generally his humorous anecdotes on construction, his history lessons, and his literary asides blend effortlessly to form an engaging commentary on the design and creation of personal spaces. ( )
  GennaC | May 9, 2017 |
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A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder was re-released and re-titled as A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams.
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Michael Pollan's unmatched ability to draw lines of connection between our everyday experiences--whether eating, gardening, or building--and the natural world has been the basis for the popular success of his many works of nonfiction, including the genre-defining bestsellers, The Botany of Desire, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and In Defense of Food. With this updated edition of his earlier book A Place of My Own, listeners can revisit the inspired, intelligent, and often hilarious story of Pollan's realization of a room of his own--a small, wooden hut, his "shelter for daydreams"--built with his admittedly unhandy hands. Inspired by both Thoreau and Mr. Blandings, A Place of My Own not only works to convey the history and meaning of all human building, it also marks the connections between our bodies, our minds, and the natural world. " A]n inspired meditation on the complex relationship between space, the human body, and the human spirit." --Francine du Plessix Gray

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