Between Making And Seeing: Overlay Drawing Practices In 1960'S-70'S Environmental Design

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In the absence of significant written histories, American landscape architects often characterize 1960's-70's disciplinary shifts in biographical and ideological terms. Many accounts exclusively credit Ian L. McHarg with the development of environmental design, reporting that his embrace of ecological methods engendered a radical break with previous ways of designing. In order to counterbalance the predominant narrative, this paper shifts attention from ideology to practice, investigating the innovative ways of drawing through which environmental design evolved. This begins with a historiographic exploration of drawing, leads into a brief history of modernist and cybernetic approaches to hand-making, and closes with an investigation into the overlay drawing practices in three early environmental design projects: a methodological experiment by Christopher Alexander and Marvin L. Manheim at MIT in 1962, a 1967 studio taught by Ian L. McHarg at the University of Pennsylvania, and a 1973 environmental survey conducted by the firms Steinitz Rogers and Johnson, Johnson & Roy. By investigating the history of environmental design through the skilled actions of drawing, we can track how designers embraced - and grappled with - a progressively systematic approach to landscape. The resulting history involves not one innovative figure, but many; not a break with prior ways of designing, but an extension of them; not a newly scientific form of design, but rather new ways of drawing. By iteratively crafting new representational approaches to a growing abundance of landscape data, environmental designers increasingly embraced drawing practices that deprioritized the revelatory potential of hand-making in order to project scientistic certainty and embrace a more efficient economy of image production.

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landscape architecture; drawing; overlay; practice; Ian L. McHarg; environmental design


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Woods, Mary Norman

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Foster, Jeremy

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History of Architecture and Urban Development

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M.A., History of Architecture and Urban Development

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Master of Arts

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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