Cultural Landscape Analysis

Observations and Findings Associated with the Planning and Design Value of Crowd-sourced Landscape Interpretations 

Rob McGinnis, Project Co-Director

The processes undertaken by the project team—both the movement-based workshops and the landscape analysis informed by the workshop participants—have the potential to augment typical community engagement and site analysis methodologies undertaken to support land planning and design. These processes could lead to richer forms of artistic transposition, documentation, and community engagement for the future of urban planning and design locally and beyond. In the case of this project sensory-based community engagement provided opportunities for gaining enhanced insight into the qualities of the landscape beyond what is typically documented during landscape analysis and community engagement.

More specifically, the data collected from workshop participants not only provided information on the intrinsic qualities of the watershed but also served as triggers launching the cultural landscape team members to investigate intangible landscape qualities. For example, investigating the mysterious aspects of place within the context of cultural landscape analysis is often avoided or simply not considered. It was through the review of workshop participant responses to the landscape that the project team determined that more nuanced readings of the landscape could result from mapping the landscape in terms of relationships. Much of current landscape analysis tends to focus on the spatial aspects of data or on empirical analysis. Further investigation is needed in the future regarding the effectiveness of mindful movement-based workshops as a source of or catalyst for deeper site readings and interpretations and their possible impacts on planning and design processes. One possible avenue of investigation could be integrating and testing these methodologies within a project that is not hypothetical.

Another take-away from this project is the role technology plays in advancing site reading and landscape interpretation. Esri’s Collector and Story Maps applications were readily available tools and platforms that are relative easy to adopt and integrate into the tested methodologies. The Collector app offers opportunities for large numbers of community members and stakeholders to create, collect, and communicate their observations, responses, and interpretations of place through direct experience of the landscape. Story Maps offers a powerful platform for communicating the spatial and narrative aspects of how the community values landscape and place with the option of juxtaposing and integrating their values within the context of standard spatial analysis methodologies.