The relationship between landscape representation and landscape design

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Connecticut]On: 09 October 2014, At: 20:11Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office:Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    The relationship between landscaperepresentation and landscape designDermot Foley a & Eimear Tynan aa Dermot Foley Landscape Architects , Malpas Street, Blackpitts, Dublin 8 ,IrelandPublished online: 24 Feb 2012.

    To cite this article: Dermot Foley & Eimear Tynan (2012) The relationship between landscape representationand landscape design, The Journal of Architecture, 17:1, 119-129, DOI: 10.1080/13602365.2012.659916

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  • The relationship betweenlandscape representation andlandscape design

    Dermot Foley, Eimear Tynan Dermot Foley Landscape Architects, Malpas Street,Blackpitts, Dublin 8, Ireland

    Landscape representation

    The purpose of this essay is to outline the relation-

    ship between current trends in landscape architec-

    ture and the forms of representation used by

    landscape architects.

    Current trends are represented primarily by

    means of the eye-level perspective, which is widely

    used by leading practitioners such as SLA, West 8

    and Gross Max.1 There are many reasons for this,

    including the increasingly competitive and global

    nature of todays landscape architecture profession,

    the growing influence of ecology and natural

    process,2 the phenomenon of image saturation,3

    and not least the tendency of landscape architecture

    imagery to be used for story-telling rather than the

    construction of real projects.4 Perhaps more impor-

    tant, however, is the fact that landscape architects

    are frequently askedby clients, planning auth-

    orities and othersto convey the atmosphere and

    character of a place, for the purposes of marketing

    a commercial development or displaying how an

    individual user will experience the future landscape

    of a public park. The complexity and open-

    endedness of external spaces, merging and inter-

    connected, with open volumes of tree canopies

    and other landscape materials, calls for a form of

    representation which is visually succinct, allowing

    an almost instant impression, and at the same

    time suitably vague, avoiding the finished and com-

    plete. The eye-level perspective is the most efficient

    way of achieving this. Its indeterminacy allows the

    designer to suggest and the viewer to imagine, in

    a way to which the plan drawing is less suited. The

    eye-level perspective, with its suggestive quality,

    can allow viewers, if not to see by their skin,

    at least to feel that they are somehow in the

    landscape.5

    Eye-level perspectives, such as those produced by

    Dermot Foley Landscape Architects for the South

    Boston 2200 project, a finalist in the Shift Boston

    Ideas Competition (2009), describe a dynamic land-

    scape changing with tidal movement and rising sea

    levels (Fig. 1). The perspectives elicit an almost

    instant response, trigger emotional engagement and

    give the viewer the impression of understanding the

    entire project within seconds. Even though complex

    and abstract plans were produced as part of

    the design process for this project, the eye-level

    119

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    # 2012 The Journal of Architecture 1360-2365 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13602365.2012.659916

    Figure 1. Dermot Foley

    Landscape Architects,

    South Boston 2200,

    three perspective views

    of proposed tidal

    landscape, 2008.

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  • perspectives remain the drawings most likely to be

    published owing to their unmediated visual appeal.6

    The communication of more basic design ideas

    and the decision-making process itself can also be

    assisted by the use of the eye-level perspective

    (Fig. 2): the image shown here is of a basic three-

    dimensional drawing but it conveys several layers

    of informationthe scale of the space as seen by

    the user; the scale and rhythm of the brick and

    other materials; the character of the plants; and

    120

    The relationship between

    landscape representation

    and landscape design

    Dermot Foley, Eimear Tynan

    Figure 2. Dermot Foley

    Landscape Architects,

    Landscape for a

    residential

    development,

    perspective view of

    proposed materials,

    2007.

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  • some indication of the construction technique. Even

    though this drawing tends towards the abstract it

    represents the proposals more accurately than a

    combination of plan, section and elevation, in a

    way which corresponds to an individuals expected

    experience of the future landscape and which

    cannot be emulated by a birds-eye perspective. It

    is more than a combination of plan, section and

    elevation because the information is presented in a

    composite way which triggers the rapid response

    and sense of understanding. It is at the same time,

    however, inferior to the combination of plan,

    section and elevation, as it offers only an isolated

    portion of the proposal and fails to connect the

    detail with the totality.7

    It is arguable that the contemporary use of the

    eye-level perspective as the primary means of rep-

    resentation in landscape architecture was first

    tested by Humphry Repton and Uvedale Price.

    While Reptons methodology evolved during his

    career, he eventually aligned his practice somewhat

    with the ideas espoused by Price.8 Both Repton and

    Price contributed to the debate on scenic aesthetics.

    Both put forward a naturalistic approach, although

    they differed on the detail, and both were con-

    cerned with landscape as seen.9

    Repton was one of the first landscape designers

    to practice in a fashion which is recognisable to con-

    temporary landscape architects. The opportunities

    for Repton, but also the trials and tribulations of

    his career, were born out of rapid technological,

    social and political change. His clients were socially

    and demographically diverse, the size of the

    estates and commissions were smaller than those

    of his well-known predecessors, the array of pub-

    lished ideas and opinions more extensive and the

    profession more competitive. In addition, the wide-

    spread impact of technology on the landscape,10 in

    ways not directly related to garden design, heralded

    the modern profession of landscape architecture as

    a wide-ranging design discipline associated as much

    with logistics and infrastructure as with gardens.11

    Repton communicated ideas and manipulated

    scale and perception through his before-and-after

    watercolours (Fig. 3). Although he claimed that

    these images were intended to exercise the mind

    and were not intended simply as pictures,12 he laid

    the foundation for the contemporary reliance on

    the eye-level perspective as the primary means of

    communication for landscape architects.

    Landscape design

    Before the end of the eighteenth century, landscape

    design was communicated primarily through plan

    and birds-eye view. These drawings were used to

    illustrate an imposed order and fixed spatial compo-

    sition. Plans were read and understood as strategies

    for manipulating space and resources for functional

    and economic reasons but also, most importantly, as

    an explicit cultural act. Natural processes played a

    role but that role was secondary. Critically, the

    cultural act of landscape design was intended for

    and understood only by an elite minority of clients,

    practitioners and critics (Fig. 4).

    The influence of natural process as we understand

    it today was expressed by Uvedale Price and taken

    up to some extent by Repton. Price promoted the

    notion that, given time, and protected from the

    Improvers, nature would provide its own scenery.13

    In doing so he was contemplating what others

    121

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  • 122

    The relationship between

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    and landscape design

    Dermot Foley, Eimear Tynan

    Figure 3. (Top)

    Humphry Repton

    (17521818), View

    from my own cottage,

    in Essex. [with overslip]

    from his Fragments on

    the Theory and Practice

    of Landscape

    Gardening (London, T.

    Bensley and Son, 1816),

    hand coloured aquatint,

    Yale Center for British

    Art, Paul Mellon

    Collection.

    (Bottom) Humphry

    Repton (17521818),

    View from my own

    cottage, in Essex.

    [without overslip] from

    his Fragments on the

    Theory and Practice of

    Landscape Gardening,

    (London, T. Bensley and

    Son, 1816), hand

    coloured aquatint, Yale

    Center for British Art,

    Paul Mellon Collection.Dow

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  • 123

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    Figure 4. Jean

    Delagrive, Map of

    Versailles, 1746

    (courtesy of Historic

    Urban Plans, Inc.,

    Ithaca, New York, USA).

    The abstract nature of

    the plan is a tool in

    communicating

    concepts such as

    imposed order or the

    absolute power of the

    French monarch. Plan

    drawings such as this

    are often difficult to

    interpret.

    Figure 5. Dermot Foley

    Landscape Architects,

    Time-line illustration of

    the two related themes

    of natural process (as

    found) and image,

    2010.

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  • such as the Smithsons, a century and a half later,

    called as found. The importance of the relationship

    between Reptons preferred type of image and the

    realisation that as found natural process could

    drive landscape architecture is best considered in

    terms of a time line which highlights how topical

    Reptons and Pricess thoughts are for todays land-

    scape architects (Fig. 5).

    Allied to that, current landscape design ideas are

    communicated to and generated by a wide array of

    protagonists, including but not limited to clients and

    professionals. The eye-level perspective is the tool of

    124

    The relationship between

    landscape representation

    and landscape design

    Dermot Foley, Eimear Tynan

    Figure 6. Maurice

    McDonagh, Raised

    Circle, first installed in

    Sculpture in the

    Parklands (top) and

    several years later

    (bottom) with

    colonising birch and

    willow (photographs,

    top, by James Fraher/

    Kevin ODwyer;

    bottom, by Dermot

    Foley Landscape

    Architects).

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  • choice for disseminating ideas to a wide-ranging

    audience. The scenic aesthetic of such images is

    arguably of more importance and is more complex

    than many landscape architects are willing to

    concede.14 It is, however, criticised by protagonists

    of the ecological aesthetic,15 although ironically it

    is perhaps the only type of image capable of captur-

    ing the meaning and relevance of designed land-

    scapes derived from ecological processes.

    Many landscape architecture projects are now

    emerging with no particular pre-ordained spatial

    composition.16 Process and relationships are pre-

    sented as the main organising devices, but a fixed

    spatial composition is avoided. This design approach

    defines what might be called equational landscapes;

    that is, landscapes organised on the basis of a

    number of variables, or stimuli, over which the

    designer has control.17 Changing one of the vari-

    ables sets in motion a process which, although pre-

    dictable, is not actually designed in the conventional

    sense. It is this type of landscape that Anita Berriz-

    beitia refers to when she cites Stuart Kaufmann

    (1995): A system poised on the edge of chaos is

    capable of producing an overwhelming response

    to small, discrete stimuli.18

    In Landscape Strategy for Sculpture in the Park-

    lands (2008), by Dermot Foley Landscape Archi-

    tects, the variables include time, hydrology,

    relative location of layered substrates and intensity

    of use (Fig. 6). Time is a factor in all landscape archi-

    tecture, but here it is not just a question of waiting

    for a particular spatial composition to unfold

    through, for example, the growth of trees. Time,

    as it relates to the spatial development of particular

    parts of the site, is continuously re-set in different

    ways on different parts of the site. For example,

    selected areas are periodically cleared to expose

    the substrate and re-start the ecological process

    of succession.

    Equational, or process-driven landscape design is

    an emerging landscape architecture practice. The

    phenomenon is, at least, well established at a theor-

    etical level, even though not yet widely practised.

    Although there are earlier proposals such as

    125

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    Figure 7. Dermot Foley

    Landscape Architects,

    Comparative plans of

    Versailles, Blenheim and

    Downsview, 2010.

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  • Neumann and Reichholfs Ecopark for North Munich

    (1995), the OMA/Bruce Mau entry for Torontos

    Downsview Park (1999) is perhaps the most widely

    debated example of process-driven landscape

    design for a major public open space (Fig. 7). This

    project represents the latest chapter in the tran-

    sition, as described below, from Renaissance to

    Baroque to English Style to Modern.

    The experience of the Baroque garden is sub-

    stantially one of movement, from point to point,

    along a main axis. Secondary axes, views and topo-

    graphy all contribute to the complexity of the

    experience, but the visitor is aware of arriving at

    a particular point, and leaving that point to move

    on to the next point. Surfaces, horizontal, some-

    times inclined, and vertical, play a critical role in

    establishing the perspective and vanishing point

    which is fundamental to the experience. A central

    tenet of the English Style is an emphasis on the

    surface as opposed to the point. The complex

    three-dimensional quality of the surface erases

    the single-point perspective and imparts a feeling

    of moving from point-locale to point-locale,

    where it is not always possible to determine

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    The relationship between

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    Dermot Foley, Eimear Tynan

    Figure 8. Dermot Foley

    Landscape Architects,

    Perspective view of

    proposed space for

    Qingpu New Town

    Landscape and Urban

    Design Competition,

    2008.

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  • whether a point is being arrived at or departed

    from. The location of the point-locale is still critical

    but the move away from precise points pre-empts

    todays practice, with the location or even existence

    of points not always significant. At Downsview, the

    pictures, or eye-level perspectives, by OMA/Bruce

    Mau, could have been taken from any point on

    the plan. They do not relate to a fully fixed and pre-

    127

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    Figure 9. Dermot Foley

    Landscape Architects

    and Estudio Marti

    Franch, Perspective

    view for Valdebebas

    Urban Park Design

    Competition, Madrid,

    2009.

    Figure 10. Dermot

    Foley Landscape

    Architects, Perspective

    view of proposed river

    park for Oltretorrente

    Landscape and Urban

    Design Competition,

    Parma, 2008.

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  • conceived spatial sequence and they do not relate

    to particularities of the site such as topography.19

    Aspects of the Downsview project will take

    decades to unfold but, since the competition,

    observers have been critical of the use of certain

    types of drawings and unsure of the role played

    by the eye-level perspective.

    The eye-level perspectives shown in figures 8, 9

    and 10, which describe proposals for Qingpu New

    Town (Fig. 8; 2009), Valdebebas Urban Park

    (Fig. 9; 2009) and Oltretorrente Urban Design

    (Fig. 10; 2008), are important tools of communi-

    cation and typify the perspectives or pictures used

    by Dermot Foley Landscape Architects. As with the

    OMA/Bruce Mau perspectives used for the Downs-

    view project, they do not explain an overall strategy.

    That the viewers imagination, however, can over-

    come the limitation of frame and viewpoint, and

    imagine the rest of the proposed experience,

    underlies the deceptive nature of the picture, prom-

    ising everything and revealing little. In overcoming

    the limitation of frame and viewpoint the viewer

    bypasses the complexity of the proposed landscape

    and avoids a lengthier but possibly more fruitful dis-

    course which would have been triggered by the plan

    and other more abstract methods of drawing. It is

    precisely because landscapes are so complex, not

    despite that fact, that we reduce them to pictures.20

    Recent work with video by Christophe Girot at the

    Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule (ETH),

    Zurich and Krystallia Kamvasinou at the University

    of Westminster has the potential to enhance the

    qualities and overcome some of the limitations of

    the fixed eye-level view point in representation,

    but for the moment the eye-level perspective

    remains the format most likely to be employed by

    practitioners.21

    Notes and references1. E. De Jong, Vistas of the Imagination,Scape, 1

    (2008), pp. 3846. De Jong cites the explosion in com-

    puter-aided design as one of the reasons for the return

    to the scenic qualities of the perspective image,

    although he does not distinguish between the birds-

    eye view and the eye-level perspective.

    2. I. Thompson, The Picturesque as Pejorative, Studies in

    the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes, 26

    (2006), pp. 237248.

    3. J. Pallasmaa, The Eyes of the Skin (Chichester, Wiley,

    2005), p. 21.

    4. M. Dorrian and G. Rose, eds, Deterritorialisa-

    tions. . .Revisioning Landscapes and Politics (London,

    Black Dog Publishing, 2003), pp. 1314. Dorrian

    and Rose, quoting John Brinckerhoff Jackson and

    Denis Cosgrove, succinctly describe the historic

    back drop to recent changes in meaning and rep-

    resentation of landscape, which have partly influ-

    enced the increased emphasis on the eye-level

    perspective.

    5. J. Pallasmaa, The Eyes of the Skin, op. cit., p. 10.

    6. L. Kieper, Envisioning Boston, The Boston Business

    Journal (April, 2010), p. 33.

    7. M. Dorrian and G. Rose, eds, Deterritorialisa-

    tions. . .Revisioning Landscapes and Politics, op. cit.,

    p. 121.

    8. S. Daniels, Humphry Repton: Landscape Gardening

    and the Geography of Georgian England (New

    Haven, Yale University Press, 1999).

    9. J. Berger, Ways of Seeing (London, Penguin, 1972).

    10. S. Daniels, Humphry Repton, op. cit.

    11. Contemporary landscape architects provide services as

    diverse as appraisals of route selection for proposed

    128

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  • motorways, mitigation of industrial development and

    rehabilitation of contaminated land as well as the

    more conventional services such as landscape design

    for commercial developments and garden design for

    private individuals.

    12. S. Daniels, Humphry Repton, op. cit.

    13. Ibid., p. 115. According to Daniels, for Price the Pictur-

    esque was inherent in the landscape, an objective

    quality that could be discovered (or found).

    14. Just as Repton defended his water colours as more

    than just pictures, todays landscape architects often

    use eye-level perspectives as unbiased, accurate

    renderings of future landscapes evolving from

    natural process. In both cases the impossible is prom-

    ised and the eye-level perspectives, although evoca-

    tive, can neither predict the exact spatial qualities of

    a landscape derived from the scientific principles of

    ecology, nor replicate the actual experience of the

    future landscape.

    15. For a discussion of the complexities of establishing a

    nature aesthetic as opposed to a (predominantly

    visual) landscape aesthetic see K. Soper, Privileged

    gazes and ordinary affections: reflections on the

    politics of landscape and the scope of the nature

    aesthetic, in, M. Dorrian, G. Rose, eds, Deterritoriali-

    sations. . .Revisioning Landscapes and Politics, op. cit.,

    pp. 338348.

    16. Examples include Neumann and Reichholfs Ecopark

    for North Munich (1995), the OMA/Bruce Mau entry

    for Torontos Downsview Park (1999), and the Land-

    scape Strategy for Sculpture in the Parklands by

    Dermot Foley Landscape Architects (2008).

    17. D. Foley, Sculpture in the parklands equational land-

    scape, paper presented at the As Found conference,

    University of Copenhagen, 2010.

    18. A. Berrizbeitia, Scales of undecidability, in,

    J. Czerniak, ed., Downsview Park Toronto (Munich,

    Prestel Verlag, 2001), p. 120.

    19. Ibid., K. Hill, Urban ecologies: biodiversity and urban

    design, p. 100.

    20. C. Bell, J. Lyall, The Accelerated Sublime (London,

    Praeger, 2002), p. 8.

    21. C. Girot, Experimental videos on the perception of

    landscape, in, E. Mertens, ed., Visualising Landscape

    Architecture (Basil, Birkhauser, 2010), p. 119;

    K. Kamvasinou, Notation timelines and the aesthetics

    of disappearance, The Journal of Architecture, 15

    (2010), pp. 397423.

    129

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