People's experiences with places are inevitably connected with the landscape. As casual tourists, we visit landscapes and take home memory snapshots. As residents, we live in them over seasons and years and build connections with our life and the lives of the place. As explorers, we focus on learning from the past, present and future of a place. We might ask, “How did this city come to be built here?” “What plants and animals were here before people?” “Who settled here first?” “What economies will continue to sustain this place?” Exploring the forces that contributed to a place being settled and developed over time is a complex and intensive undertaking. This journey will look at three ways to explore places- physically, culturally and ecologically.
Activity 1 Casual Tourist
It is always fun to explore an area as a casual tourist. Get a map, grab your sketchbook, digital camera and a friend. In this exploration you will map a walk by diagramming your path (draw a line of where you walked) and marking key memorable moments (mark things that you notice). You can mark the memorable moments with a dot or a star. For each memorable moment do a quick sketch of what caught your attention and take a photo so you can remember it. Write a paragraph to describe your experience. Take a look at animoto.com and make an animated set of postcards if you can!
Activity 2 The Physical Landscape
Looking at the landscape of any human settlement is seeing it as a stage that has been set for people to live. To understand its foundation, one must look at the geologic forces over a million years that shaped the foundation of bedrock, sediments, soils, topography, hydrology and climate. This unique set of circumstances attracts and supports certain insects, plants and animals. Climate and Topography control the settings’ exposure to sunshine and precipitation. In this activity you should research and document the place's geologic history. Topography (contours) sections Sunshine Precipitation Temperature Range Soil Conditions Vegetation Animals + Insects
Activity 3 The Cultural Landscape
Look out over your place. The cultural landscape looks at the relationship of people and land over time. What in your view has been contributed by humans? Is it everything in sight? Is it power lines and roads? Is it factories and houses and churches and government buildings? In this activity you will map by color-coding human systems of transportation, roads, power lines, building zones, etc. Use different colors for commercial , residential, civic and institutional buildings.
Activity 4 The Ecological Landscape
This activity will look at the relationship between habitation of people in a place over the natural systems of the landscape. You will look at native vegetation, animals and insects to find how much area has been taken over by human habitation. Are some animals extinct? Are large areas of vegetation replaced by hard surfaces. Is the hydrological system taking in more pollutants than it can cleanse with its water cycle? Are birds flying into buildings? Are areas of natural conservation carefully planned in close proximity to built areas? The ecological lens encourages you to look at human habitation with a critical eye as to what was before, what is now and what could be in the future.
- Urban Wilderness
- OnWander (requires free sign up and log in)
- UNESCO: World Heritage Foundation
- National Geographic
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- Urban Design
- Nature Patterns
- Public Space
- Place Experience
- Tree Identification
- Word Webs
- 7 Natural Wonders
- Experience Design
- Pocket Parks
- Design Research
- Outdoor Classrooms
- Site Analysis