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Landscape Notes from the Field

Study of Pine by Nga

First observe, then employ. This simple concept has become the underlying framework for how we investigate the design potential of plants within the Landscape Architecture Program at Auburn University.  We advocate that plants contribute more to the landscape than the mere “foundation planting” around the base of a building.  Plants are spatial, dynamic, revelatory, and performative.  As such, designers need to more aggressively understand plants.  We need to get into the field and become careful observers of plant communities, habits, relationships, and operations, so that those characteristics may be employed in future design explorations.

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The collection of sketchbook entries included here capture that steady process of getting to know plants.  Through the course of a year, landscape students traverse the University, neighborhoods, parks, and nurseries to observe a handful of indicator species within our region.  These excursions are part of a trilogy of plant courses (Plant Spatiality, Plant Ephemerality, and Plant Functionality) that investigate three primary attributes of plants, and experiment with potential design implications of each.  Plant Spatiality examines the power of plants to create and manipulate space within the landscape.  Plant Ephemerality carefully observes how plants change over time and attempts to employ this flux within design strategies.  Plant Functionality quantifies a number of functional and performative roles that plants play within the landscape and amplifies those operations through design intervention.  These three attributes are clearly not an exhaustive compilation of plants characteristics, but simply serve as an initial launching point for designers to further their understanding of plants.