Come with us for a moment out onto the porch. Just like that, we’ve entered another world without leaving home. In this liminal space, an endless array of absorbing philosophical questions arises: What does it mean to be in a place? How does one place teach us about the world and ourselves? What do we—and the things we’ve built—mean in this world? In a time when reflections on the nature of society and individual endurance are so paramount, Charlie Hailey’s latest book is both a mental tonic and a welcome provocation. Solidly grounded in ideas, ecology, and architecture, The Porch takes us on a journey along the edges of nature where the outside comes in, hosts meet guests, and imagination runs wild.
Hailey writes from a modest porch on the Homosassa River in Florida. He sleeps there, studies the tides, listens for osprey and manatee, welcomes shipwrecked visitors, watches shadows on its screens, reckons with climate change, and reflects on his own acclimation to his environment. The profound connections he unearths anchor an armchair exploration of past porches and those of the future, moving from ancient Greece to contemporary Sweden, from the White House roof to the Anthropocene home. In his ruminations, he links up with other porch dwellers including environmentalist Rachel Carson, poet Wendell Berry, writers Eudora Welty and Zora Neale Hurston, philosopher John Dewey, architect Louis Kahn, and photographer Paul Strand.
As close as architecture can bring us to nature, the porch is where we can learn to contemplate anew our evolving place in a changing world—a space we need now more than ever. Timeless and timely, Hailey’s book is a dreamy yet deeply passionate meditation on the joy and gravity of sitting on the porch.
About the Author
Charlie Hailey is an architect, writer, and professor. A Guggenheim Fellow and Fulbright Scholar, he is the author of six books, including Camps: A Guide to 21st-century Space. Hailey teaches at the University of Florida, where he was recently named Teacher-Scholar of the Year.
"Who would have ever thought that a simple attachment to an abode could generate a several-hundred-page missive? Obviously, architect Charlie Hailey did, and he asks the reader to join him in The Porch: Meditations on the Edge of Nature. Stepping out, he takes one on a journey through a series of philosophical questions, addressing a wide range of thoughts and concerns. This is not a history of porches, or even specifically Hailey's porch, but rather a view of the window on the world a porch provides, and its ability to connect one to the world. The evidence has never been more greatly appreciated than now, with the challenges of the pandemic. Hailey's porch takes on greater significance as the realization of rising sea levels and the increasing magnitude of storms jeopardizes the existence of the porch beyond this generation. Yet the porch has provided multiple lifetimes of views, other than one's own, on the juxtaposition of nature and humans. Sitting out on the porch will never be the same once one reads this book. . . . Highly recommended." — Choice
"Reading architect Charlie Hailey's exquisitely crafted essays while sitting on a porch overlooking a Cape Cod kettle pond, I discovered that I was in excellent company. According to the author, porches figured prominently in the works and artistic lives of naturalist John Muir, environmentalist Rachel Carson, photographer Paul Strand, and authors Harriet Beecher Stowe, James Agee, Eudora Welty, and Flannery O'Conner, to name just a few. Looking out from his porch, on the banks of the Homosassa River in Florida, Hailey muses deeply on why these structures are so appealing and how they enrich the mind and spirit, not only of creative artists, but all of us." — Natural History Magazine
"The Porch is a poignant and multi-sensory feast in the grand tradition of wilderness writing by the likes of Henry David Thoreau and John Muir—told from an architectural perspective. . . . [A] tangible sense of the power of porches—even through words—in delivering a deep sense of mindfulness and connection with the natural world." — Architect Magazine
"Masterful. . . . A Sand County Almanac for the Anthropocene. . . . Hailey’s book reaches beyond the merely static facts of history to something more poetic, a place where facts are free to glide against each other." — Guernica
"Hailey takes the reader on a journey to find the porch’s place in history, poetry, philosophy, and art." — The Bookseller
“Hailey bears daily witness to the subtle vibrations of the natural world that well up from below, drift down from above, or move across his screened porch in the form of air, sound, light, weather, or wing beats. With this book, he fulfills a fundamental requirement of morality—paying attention.” — Robert Pogue Harrison, author of 'Juvenescence'
“The Porch first appears to be a study of a minor architectural element, but it turns into a meditation on the secrets of human existence and the world. This book demonstrates convincingly how even a modest piece of architecture turns into a mediating device that frames, focuses, and articulates our views of reality. This book is a delightful invitation to the joys of reading, imagining, and dreaming.” — Juhani Pallasmaa, architect and professor emeritus, Aalto University, Helsinki
“The Porch displays the best traits of university press books: an enormous body of research, backed by years of careful engagement with intellectual and cultural history, and a faith that the world is worth close consideration. Hailey’s prose is patient and deliberate, the mood reverent and ready for wonder. He has written an extraordinary book—literary and philosophical, sensuous and wise—a book with which to confront our changing world.”
— Daegan Miller, author of 'This Radical Land'
“In a world of deep polarities, Hailey seeks the interstitial spaces where earth meets sky and land meets sea, where birds of the air meet trees dug deep into the soil, where the swimming manatees send their breath out of the water and into the air. As he makes clear in this deeply thoughtful meditation on connection, a porch is a literal entryway that connects the human realm and the natural world, but it is also a metaphor, for Hailey’s porch is exactly where we should all be standing. It is a place where we can see the hard truths of climate change as well as the extravagant beauty it imperils, a place where we can come to understand how inextricably we belong to both.” — Margaret Renkl, author of 'Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss'
“The weighty intimations of myth on these pages are leavened by the book’s beautifully prosaic and practical accounts of porch architecture. There could hardly be a more timely book when breathing walls, like bodies, are places where experiences of necessity meet those of freedom.” — David Leatherbarrow, University of Pennsylvania
"The Porch, Charlie Hailey’s sixth book, takes a similarly elegiac tone. Hailey, a professor of architectural practice and history at the University of Florida, offers historical, literary, and personal visions of the porch as a model for how our built environment might encounter a changing climate. 'How a porch resists a storm is that it lets the storm inside,' he observes. A porch is indoors and outdoors, personal and public, at once part of the house and part of the air around it. The back porch of Hailey’s cabin in Florida’s coastal wetlands becomes a hub from which he explores porches across history, from ancient Greek temples to the White House." — Boston Review