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Making Space: Vision and Visualization in Landscape Architecture
AuthorWatson, Blake Spencer
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Despite rhetorical studies of public space, studies of its design are limited and rarely inform readings of public space. This situation is particularly unfortunate since public space design is particularly ripe for rhetorical analysis. Landscape architects draw, write, and sell landscape plans to clients and stakeholders before they become the material public realm that receives most of the attention from those concerned with spatial politics. The intent of my project is to supplement rhetorical critiques of public space by attempting to understand the exigencies that landscape architects face in winning support and approval for their designs, how they go about winning that approval by creating persuasive texts, and how that rhetorical process manifests as features of the built environment, often in surprising and unintended ways. By exclusively focusing on already-built public spaces critics miss out on a rhetorically-complex, persuasive writing project about which the field has germane expertise to offer.By focusing on the intersection of visual rhetoric with workplace writing this study examines the rhetorical contexts in which landscape architects operate and the situated, visual practices they employ. It claims that drawing is the landscape architect’s principal mode of rhetorical invention, an argument that construes drawing as a professionally-developed viewing strategy. Observational and interview methods were employed to study the contexts in which landscape architects visualize space through a wide array of skillful, graphic techniques. Rather than understanding competent viewership as a literacy, it approaches viewing as an active, embodied techne, composed of disciplinary visualization techniques in tool-mediated situations. In the landscape architecture firm, seeing space “skillfully” is a prerequisite for drawing space cooperatively; a professionally-shared, “skilled vision” allows members to “see together” as a community – attending to the same details, employing the same perceptual tools and concepts, and sharing an aesthetic taste – to deliberate through drawing. The rhetoric of landscape architecture is a discursive and illustrative exercise in disclosing this view for others. Landscape architects in this study employ discursive and drawing techniques, like highlighting and coding, that help impart to outsiders their expert view of phenomena by organizing it into an analytical and analogical framework.