Writing as Design

Since I’ve started my masters in Landscape Architecture I have become more accustomed with communicating through graphics rather than text. For a majority of my coursework, my instructors have challenged me to express my ideas through drawings, sketches, and models rather than words. So this week when I was tasked with writing a Landscape Treatment Philosophy for the Green Hill Parcel at Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, I was a little apprehensive. I have always felt that I was a good writer, and have received positive feedback about my writing. Yet, I have not had much experience writing about design elements in a practical lens.

At first when I started writing the Landscape Treatment Philosophy, I focused on making sure I communicated all the details about plant species and design elements present in the site design. I was so focused on reiterating all the facts that I was missing out on the poetic nature of the writing. After some critique from Eliot Foulds and Chris Beagan, I began to write using a different process or focus. I started to approach the writing as if it was a piece of art in itself, and applied a design process to my writing.

It was helpful for me to think about writing the treatment philosophy in the same way that I approach a design project. Like the primary site analysis when creating a design, I first asked myself questions about what the purpose was of writing the treatment philosophy and worked on identifying my audience. I asked myself the following questions:
Who will be reading this?
What benefit will they receive from reading this?
What do they value, and how will this be important to them?
What background do they have on landscape design and specifically to this project?
Upon reading this what decisions will they make?

I then began creating my first iteration of my design (first draft) keeping in mind that I wanted to inform the reader about what the Green Hill District was historically, what the conditions are currently, and what should be done in order to preserve and sustain the historic character of the site. Next step in the process is critique or review. I had my first draft reviewed by Eliot Foulds and Chris Beagan. They each had insightful advice as far as my writing style and how well I was communicating my objective. I then went through an iteration process of editing and refinement, and after much deliberation and arrangement, I presented my work to Eliot again.

He said my work had improved (yay), and now I am going through another process of editing and refinement, on a couple small details he mentioned. So the whole process has been very enlightening, and oddly familiar, reminding me a lot of design school. I am happy that I have been able to receive this practical writing experience because it is not always highlighted as much in design education, and it is very valuable to professional practice.

Stay tuned for next week, where we will be traveling throughout Boston and the surrounding area, meeting a diverse array of professionals in the Landscape Architecture and Historic Preservation realm!

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