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Drawing for landscape architecture (book review)

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Drawing for Landscape Architecture by Edward Hutchison

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If a picture is worth a thousand words, Drawing for Landscape Architecture: Sketch to Screen to Site (2011; Thames and Hudson; 240 pp.; $65) by Edward Hutchison must be worth many, many thousands of words. Ostensibly an instructional text, each chapter starts off with exactly two pages of text which is followed by pages and pages of imagery, with the only remaining text being in captions and the occasional artfully-placed paragraphic commentary.

If it's an instructional text, it's not necessarily a step-by-step manual. The section on perspectives, for example, takes to task modern-day design culture for relying on computer-generated perspectives at the expense of designers knowing how to place sight lines and vanishing points, yet falls short of explaining how exactly to lay out a drawing with said sight lines and vanishing points.

In fact, most of the text seems to assume that the reader already has a grounding in some sort of traditional architectural drawing and rendering techniques, with Hutchison admonishing the reader to expand their approach to the various types of drawings that are useful to landscape architectural practice. To that end, the author recommends that the reader try drawing up planting plans using nonrepresentational colors (reds, for example) that represent some other quality of the plant selections, so that the drawing purportedly becomes more than just a “horticultural exercise.”

Hutchison is an advocate of landscape architects keeping a sketchbook and drawing constantly in order to develop individuated techniques and to build up confidence. The advice given, therefore, is somewhat open-ended, and invites the reader to develop their own personal approach while still lending guidelines as to how they might approach various types of drawings. Some sections seem to serve the purpose of avoiding common shortcomings with certain types of drawings, such as a chapter on plan view drawings that advises the reader to choose their colors sparingly and leave white space in order to establish clear focal points.

Taken as a whole, in fact, the book seems to serve more than just an instructional purpose. The author, who is the principle of a London-based firm, seems to be attempting to also inspire the reader as well as serving as a portfolio of his own work. This multi-purpose approach is counterintuitively well-served by the low text to image ratio. In this case, the pictures nearly speak for themselves, thereby allowing them to simultaneously instruct, inspire, and document Hutchison's own personal approach.

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