The methods used to illustrate our ideas about landscape consist of marks and data that create a network of information that informs us and others about designed works. These methods are premised on a system that displays a final product, one that is polished but also stagnant and unable to be compromised. By contrast, much of the development processes of an actual landscape (i.e., growth, seasonality, singularity, and decay) are not at all prevalent in the visual language that represents the field of landscape architecture.

The introduction of new methods of constructing drawings digitally as well as digitizing analog documents is an exploration that much of the field of landscape architecture is not utilizing let alone exploiting. Landscape documentation has not been fully explored and the complexity that a site already contains or may contain in the future is left unconsidered, without a thought or debate. Layers of time, amorphousness, and potential are each exploratory paths that cannot be documented through built form, but are important aspects of a project that need to be developed and represented.

A representative drawing, one that depicts a single idea, is the predominant form of our visual communication. The integration of a designer’s process and individuality (personal signature) is a missing component that could add fascinating information and personalization into constructed illustrations. The documentation of such processes allows for a project to record ideas that are becoming instead of being, ones that could reveal many facets of an intricate idea. The absence of process in our drawing methods not only dismisses that opportunity but creates a distance between designers and people external to the discipline and further separates the potential for collaboration to strengthen built forms and systems. A construct drawing, on the other hand, one that is built from many forms of media, contains pieces that allow viewers to glimpse the people who built them. The result is much more interesting work that could explain the considerations informing the placement of objects within a landscape system and what influences other forms of design have upon the creation of a space.

These forms of drawing are by no means new and have been practiced for decades using found images, different tools for making marks, and media surfaces. A shift in personal values that places emphasis on the creation and documentation of individual process is what’s required now for the prevalence and use of such drawings. As technologies and various forms of media multiply, the limitations of traditional drawing methods will become obsolete, as will the inability to convey the necessary complexity of landscape systems and the processes used to complete a design. It’s time to start exploring methods used to create and convey ideas that will not presuppose an exclusive relationship between our documented work and our thought processes.

This drawing by Perry Kulper, an architect and associate professor of architecture at the University of Michigan, was created in response to the Central California History Museum competition. Kulper’s new book, Pamphlet Architecture 34: Fathoming the Unfathomable, with Nat Chard, is available through Princeton Architectural Press.


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