Is the analysis phase of landscape architecture due for a makeover? Do aerial mapping techniques give the designer a hint of the ephemeral and dynamic nature of things? Perhaps techniques borrowed from the fine arts offer the possibility of helping us to explore how landscapes work? Or at the very least, provide a distictive way of documenting and interpreting the landscape.

It was our hunch that focusing on the moments that regularly occur, but are often overlooked in the landscape, such as birds flying, children running, and cars moving would contribute to a greater understanding of how a landscape actually worked.   

Areas we thought worth exploring were the work of the Cubists, and more recently David Hokney.  In particular the use of multiple veiwpoints and therefore the inclusion in a single image of the temporal.  Pablo Piccaso’s work Femme Couchee, for example, the work of the analytical phase of Cubism and Hockney’s collage and large panoramas in general demonstrates the dismantling of objects and having analysed them into component elements, rearranging them in a new order. The potency and relevance of this new articulation is reinforced by the Abstractionists’ belief that no imitation can ever reflect the strength and beauty in the appearance of nature.  In order to depict nature fully we must find another way. The images acompaning this text attempt to realise a multidimensional understanding of place.  

To begin we utilised the camera to record information.  At this stage the pictures were just that – pictures, which contained formal notions of perspective, a particular way of seeing the image, from a distance and in a static frozen ‘moment’.  Picasso’s works are often seen as distortions or abstract works, however if we introduce the notion of time to the way we think about his works, we can begin to read them differently.  Take the two archetypal styles of theatre; the Italian style where the stage is a box that contains backdrops that create the illusion of distance and perspective; and the Shakespearian style of theatre where the stage juts out into the audience so that everyone who views the theatre sees something different.  Picasso’s paintings can be described as working in the same way as the latter of these two examples.  They are in fact just another way of seeing.  It is as if the image is moving in time and we can see behind, beside and in front at the same time.  This is an idea we thought would be useful for landscape architecture.  What if we could articulate site information in this alternative multidimensional way?

It is worth noting that images that are stylised, abstracted, and distorted can often be dismissed as not being like the world, because they don’t look like the world.  Our drawings could be seen as such distortions.  It is easy to hold up a photograph and say, ‘see, this is what it looks like’.  However, when we do this we are accepting one viewpoint, one angle, perspectival rules, and the concept of outside looking in.  Our work attempts to offer other ways of interpreting and understanding the forces and flows that are functioning in and pulsing through the site.  The process by which we have gone about this determines landscape architecture as a regulator, meaning that this design process taps into the forces and flows, and extracts intensities and expresses them in terms of potential design instructions.

Utilising techniques borrowed from the fine arts enabled us to construct images that encompass an assemblage of conditions.  Multidimensionality differs from the use of aerial mapping because it offers, in the case of the birds flying composition, concepts of here, there and not there, change, chance and potentiality.  This is a different style of information to numbers of birds, flight paths, species that can be represented through maps and denote ‘fixed’ conditions.  Our technique attempts to capture the more ephemeral and also functional characteristics of the birds and register their effects against the landscape. What results are an assemblage of effects registered against surrounding landscape in the diagrams change chance, stack shift, and move transform.  The analysis of the original photographs utilising this technique reveals qualities such as: the constant evolution of landscapes through adding, removing and recombining conditions; minute changes in behaviour within the assemblage can radically alter formations; movements of forces layer up on landscapes and distort and alter entire assemblages.

[1]{cke_protected_6} C. Harrison, P. Wood, eds., Art in Theory 1900-2000 An Anthology of Changing Ideas, USA, 1993. p. 287.