CW Landscape Architecture – 01

An Archive of Landscape Architecture Studio

Reflection_Studio Culture

Below is an adaptation, almost verbatum, of a previous blog post of mine from our UT-COAD Summer Session.  Please know, however, that our experience was equally as miserable as the following piece portrays it as enjoyable.

Concerning ‘Studio Culture’

Better yet, why not ‘Community’? ‘Culture’ almost seems too sterile to describe this progressive, organic formation of bonds. Regardless, concerning this conducive environment.

The majority of us do not hail from artistic backgrounds— mostly technical— yet it’s now ~3:30 AM of the fifth day of summer session and a slurry of drawing techniques, critical analyses, and constructive aid is flying across the room. Not six hours ago did I hear such phrases as

I thought they were gonna teach us how to hold a pencil?”


Man, no one would ever believe I’m in architecture studio if I showed them my sketches!

Progress is happening. Relationships are forming. A community is coming together.

This is why I decided to return for graduate work.



So what is transparency? Within the context of our sight design, what is it that I am offering as transparent? Space? Program? Circulation? The campus at large? These are questions that I last left with.

[aside] What I truly love about studio ‘culture’ (refer to post on Reflection_Studio Culture for added info) is the collaborative effort put forth toward everyone’s design. We are begin continually told that design does not happen within a creative vacuum. I recognize this. I have always recognized this, and it is a good reason for returning for grad school. [/aside]

Given to opportunity to discuss my design idea with fellow class mates, it was pointed out the function of spaces adjacent to our site– the Art&Architecture Building, the Humanities complex, the Clarence Brown  and Carousel theatres, and an old residence dormitory reprogrammed into musical rehearsal space. We are clearly seated within the Arts &  Humanities quad.

So taking a more metaphorical station, what is transparent about these spaces? These disciplines? What commonalities exist?

For me, the idea of process presents itself as the chief, recurring theme within each discipline. Artists, architects, landscape architects, and interior designers progress from iteration to iteration, study model after study model. Actors, actresses, and musicians are constantly rehearsing. Writers blow through re-editing pieces like there’s no tomorrow! No profession moves directly from Point A to Point B. There are always intermediate stages.

So how does process become transparent? My solution is to create spaces for public display of the respective processes. Spaces for quiet seclusion and recollection of thoughts (quiet reflection), pin-up/exhibition space for the display of current work (space for our studio to function), and small-scale rehearsal/performance space for both theatrics and musicians (gathering/seating space for a productive Student ASLA meeting).

And this is where I am currently at, refining ideas continually to accommodate these programs. I have played with curvilinear themes to echo the circular nodes throughout campus, rectilinear  themes to transition from the adjacent sites into my own, and currently the use of an angled grid and implications thereof to engage the user on the periphery as a means of drawing him into the sight.

So yeah, what follows is my own series of process.

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Project Statement:

‘Project_03: Tran(section) continues the material exploration started in Project_02. Students must identify a system of assembly used in the construction of their Project_02 final model and develop that system toward the accommodation of landscape programs. The program for Project_03 includes:

  • A space for individual students to quietly reflect.
  • A space for our studio to interact.
  • A space to support a productive Student ASLA meeting.’

This presents an interesting opportunity for me. An initial look at my model led me to the ‘system of assembly’ using the ‘tongue-and-groove’ joints connecting my cardboard massings and the horizontal supports. What I realized during my presentation/review, however, was that at certain angles I could see straight through my cardboard pieces. During construction I had cut each of my pieces along the same corrugated orientation (for the initial sake of coherency throughout the model) and when viewed straight-on, I could see through the piece. So from this my ‘system of assembly’ quickly gravitated toward that of


So I began by creating a list of terms, concepts, and ideas that I associate with transparency at a quick-fire rate.

  • transparency, see-through, visibility, visual connection, honest, limited vs. open accessibility, open/ airy, connectivity, relation, readability, opportunity, invitation, proximity, permeability.

So my initial designs have been more focused toward the notion of literal transparency and visibility–the implication of spaces and sight lines, allées, higher foliage canopies that offer increased lateral/peripheral visibility, etc..

The question that I continue to ask myself without answer is: WHAT it is that I am making transparent? The use of space? The fact that other spaces exist? The context of our site within the larger campus context? I don’t know.

What follows is the culmination–and a fairly photo-heavy culmination, I might add–of my process.

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Final Project_02

So it has been a week since our class presented our final boards for Project_02.

As mentioned in previous posts, my presentation revolved around the concept of Projection–of an object, of an image, of an idea– and how it related to my initial figure studies of human scale.

Brainstorming sessions developed words akin to projection– throw, launch, hurl, guide, direct. Each of these ideas carried with them the implication of purpose and intentionality, and I wanted to develop my presentation in a very thorough accordingly. I wanted every aspect of my project to speak to the larger concept of Projection and the scale of the human body.

The model (photos 1&2) is built 1:1 human scale, with the height representing my own forearm. Each cardboard massing is representative if the timing of an individual throwing (projecting) the object from my initial studies, and sequentially decreasing in number to that final point of projection. There are five supporting ribs (five fingers, five sequential moments in my initial figure study) that, when inserted, point both toward that final point of projection as well as inward toward the point of the arm’s rotation, the shoulder.

The presentation boards (photos 3&4) were developed to echo this concept in a similar fashion:

  •  Linear arrangement
  • Emphasis on a central
  • Guiding regulating line
  • Visual echo between the two boards

Projection can be defined as both

  1. The implementation of something that is contemplated, devised, or planned.
  2. The process or technique of reproducing a spatial object or a section of such an object upon a plane.

My aim was to express the former through the use of the latter.

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I think that me writing this particular post is somewhat interesting. Its purpose is to present the bulk of my process work from Project_02 and reflect on the fact that I really dropped the ball in reflecting throughout the process.

Project_02 is finished and I realized that I never made time to prepare any written relfection on my process. I know that in order to progress an idea or project I had to have reflected to some extent, but I really think that the lack of cognitive documentation slowed my progression in a significant way.

I often sat at my desk unsure of where to make the next move– unsure of where to start– and I have a hunch that had I used this medium to solidify and collect my thoughts I may have noticed a more clear direction. As was noted in my first post, time management continues to be a point of weakness for me– something to continue working at.

Regardless, below is the essential (by no means complete) collection of process sketches and study models developed for Project_02.

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Response_PLSC Seminar: Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum

It was a pleasure to sit in on the Plant Sciences Seminar series on Monday afternoon, September 24, 2012. Current Exectutive Director of the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum (KGBA), Keyes Williamson, spoke briefly on both the history and future of the KGBA in his presentation, Growing Gardens, Honoring History, Cultivating Community.

Williamson, an MLA graduate from the University of Georgia, has spent his previous career working for both historical garden landmarks such as Monticello and Old Salem as well as being involved in public park planning. It was quickly evident that his passion lay in the conservation and maintenance of historically significant landscapes, and I believe that this excitement for the profession will play well into the course of the Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum.

Offering a brief view of the site’s history, the original land was give to David. W. Howell in 1786 for his service in the revolutionary war and was soon transformed into what became Knoxville’s oldest, continually operating business until 2003 when it was sold as a local landmark, the KGBA. Whew, 217 of history flies, right? Obviously, there is much more to the story than that, but please suffice it to note that what became the C.B.Howell Nursery carries a history far longer than most, if not all, in Knoxville can attest to, posing it as an obvious local landmark worthy of remembrance and respect.

Fast-forward to 2012 and the KGBA is currently in the process of revamping the remaining 44 acres of the former C.B.Howell Nursery. Based on Williamson’s ideas, they are hoping fostering a larger presence within both the city and the community. The current plan involves the re-structuring, restoration, and reprogramming of several key buildings on the site toward their use as community centers, educational facilities, and large event spaces.

Having had several opportunities to visit the site, I can attest to its beauty as well as it potential for community outreach.

After listening to Williamson’s proposal, however, I do have a number of hesitations concerning the KGBA’s actual community involvement. To speak quite frankly, the KGBA is not located in one of the more up-scale neighborhoods of Knox county. The majority of the surrounding demographic is situated somewhere within the lower income bracket of the city and the efforts that are being put forth at the KGBA do not seem to be applicable to that context. I do understand that as the KGBA seeks to present itself as a local landmark it cannot cater to all groups, but marketing its locale as a premier event space in Knoxville simply does not seem to impress the surrounding neighborhoods.

I also understand that I may be entirely off base with my analysis, and truthfully I hope that I am. The Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum has always been a beautiful spot for my family to take afternoon picnics and walks, and I do wish the finest success on one of Knoxville truly secret treasures.



cover photo sourced from Elizabeth Eason Architecture LLC:

Response_The Alternating Current of the Design Process

Discussing the genesis of design thought has never seemed quite so complicated to me. I say this half jokingly, but also from a standpoint that I have merely never placed any appreciable amount of thought into this subject. John T. Lyle’s The Alternating Current of the Design Process, much akin to Nigel Cross’ Design Thinking, sets out to further investigate this idea. He presents the processes of right vs left brain action, how they influence the roles of intuitive and practical thought, and how these forces should be brought into balance. Balance within this spectrum of complete creative vs determined practicality is where I often find trouble; the urge to remain on one end of the spectrum over the other is always strong and often more convenient.

Lyle goes further to say explain that what makes understanding the design process so difficult is that many designers misunderstand their own design process, claiming a design to consist of equal parts practicality and essentially higher-level magic. As a personal explanation, I see the design process not as a specific moment in time, but rather an ongoing collection of mental material that can be used later. Of the several items that I am trying not to forget about the ARCH Summer Session, the phrase ‘everything is process’  holds fast. And while not every situation has to/can be viewed as useful process, the fact remains that any and every experience a designer possesses holds a certain amount of weight upon his/her design process. I think that this serves as at least a partial response to the question of where intuitive design emanates. Design, therefore, is a collaborative montage of the design process.