While it’s easy to understand a place visually in person, I believe a deeper understanding is revealed about any site during the process of mark making and mapping a site. By making a map we begin to see a myriad of details often overlooked even in person: the diversity and types of trees growing on location, the repetitive pattern of light posts, the flow of waterways, the habits of the population who occupy and use the space, and even geologic and architectural signs of a site’s past.
In the hopes of expanding my understanding of design in relation to narrative and experience, I’ve turned my eyes toward artists like Cy Twombly and Anna Maria Maiolino.
Cy Twombly is a modern American painter, sculptor and photographer who is known for his seemingly simple scribbles, emotive and kinetic mark making and line work that maps an inner world. He uses techniques of layered paint and scribbled marks, his artwork not dissimilar to that of a landscape architect layering landscape elements and systems in plan. In both instances history is layered, people are layered. Elements on canvas or on site come forward, while other elements move back.
Brazilian artist Anna Maria Maiolino is another amazing inspiration in the realm of artistic storytelling. Whether direct or circuitous, her work is always imbued with the feeling of a story, moving through thresholds of one experience to the next using line work. Voids and spaces are created, lines and curves diverge and converge, these are landscape plans of an emotive and experiential nature for the viewer to read.
In the the development of the narrative, whether it’s implementing more bike lanes or selecting a particular variety of plant to use on a project, the process of mark making and mapping has a place in weaving experience and narrative into design. And by turning to the more exploratory realm of art, we as designers can find alternative avenues to weave new features and insights into the landscape architectural experience.