ECOREVELATORY DESIGN: A MODEL FOR LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE
TO RESOLVE, REVEAL AND EDUCATE IN THE LOWER FOUNTAIN CREEK
B.A. University of Idaho, 1995
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Landscape Architecture (M.LA.)
2010 by Kimberly Gortz-Reaves
All rights reserved.
This thesis for the Master in Landscape Architecture
has been approved
Gortz-Reaves, Kimberly (M.LA., College of Architecture and Planning)
Ecorevelatory Design: A Model for Landscape Architecture to Resolve, Reveal and
Educate in the Lower Fountain Creek Corridor.
Thesis directed by Senior Instructor Charlie Chase
The term and practice of Ecorevelatory design (ERD) was coined in 1998 and
is defined as a design strategy that attempts to enhance site ecosystems as well as
engage users by revealing ecological and cultural phenomena, processes and
relationships affecting a site. The theory has received heavy criticism about its ability
to absorb an audience in ecological understanding or improve site conditions. What
the research is examining is evidence based strategies to build a language and
process, which can manifest solutions to address a specific design question. At the
heart of the matter is answering the question on how ERD theory is applied to
resolve, reveal and educate users about a set of complex ecological and cultural issues
affecting the lower Fountain Creek corridor between Colorado Springs, Colorado and
the Arkansas River confluence in Pueblo, Colorado. Answering this question entails
conducting literary research, surveys and systematic site analysis to deconstruct ERD
landscapes in order to reconstruct a design language and working process able to
manifest effective design solutions. The result of the ERD language is not only used
to generate design ideas for a site in the lower Fountain Creek corridor, but also open
dialogue over whether ERD or other landscapes can culminate in a distinct
educational experience for those with limited design or ecological knowledge. It is
the challenge within landscape architecture to speak through landscape medium,
especially when there are limits to the ability of the general public to gamer
ecological/cultural information from their environment. To do so, a design must
create tertiary levels of form and experience to actualize illuminating events. Without
memorable or distinctive features, landscapes are forgettable and fall short in offering
unique educational opportunities. Features must come in the form of culturally
appropriate triggers in the landscape for people to understand there is information to
read or experience there. The resulting ERD process and scaffolding refocuses
vague attempts at fostering awareness and encourages ERD to commit to ecological
function as well as generate distinctive intelligible forms.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
I would like to dedicate this thesis to all of those who have helped me see this
through. Especially to my parents, for their hard work and dedication to doing what it
takes so I can pursue my education. This is for my children, Henry and Katie,
because they practiced their patience as I toiled away the hours. Finally, to Rick, for
his support and admiration.
My thanks to my advisor, Charlie Chase, for his contribution and support to my
research. I also wish to thank my committee and the following people for their
Fountain Creek Nature Center
Pikes Peak Regional Council of Governments
THK Associates Inc.
Pueblo Nature and Raptor Center
TABLE OF CONTENTS
List of Figures....................................................x
List of Tables...................................................xii
Background to Ecorevelatory Design.....................1
2. LITERATURE REVIEW..........................................7
Defining Ecorevelatory Design..........................7
REVELATORY: Reveal and Educate........................17
DESIGN: Experience and Process........................27
3. ECOREVELATORY STUDIES.....................................30
Rating Analysis and Surveys...........................30
Moments of Unexpectedness.............................47
Formation of ERD Language......................56
4. ECOFIT TO ECOREVELATORY -
AN EXAMPLE OF ERD ON FOUNTAIN CREEK............61
Ecological and Cultural Narrative..............63
A.2 ANALYSIS SOURCE TABLE.............................96
A.3 PANORAMIC PHOTOS..................................98
A.4 HUMAN SUBJECTS APPROVAL..........................107
LIST OF FIGURES
2.1 Steinitz Framework for Ecological Design...........................12
2.2 ERD Process Diagram...............................................30
3.1 Can Anything Be Ecorevelatory......................................31
3.2 ERD Analysis Tree.................................................36
3.3 Wenk Analysis.....................................................39
3.4 Shop Creek Analysis...............................................41
3.5 Cedar River Analysis..............................................43
3.6 Overall Memorable Graph...........................................50
3.7 Noticed Elements..................................................51
3.8 Station Comparisons...............................................53
4.1 Before and After...................................................65
4.2 Fountain Creek Watershed..........................................66
4.3 Current Impervious Surfaces...................................... 69
4.4 Future Impervious Surfaces........................................69
4.5 Ecological Narrative..............................................70
4.6 Cultural Narrative................................................71
4.7 ERD Master Plan...................................................74
4.8 Spectacle Event Wet and Dry.....................................76
4.9 (B) River Window...............................................78
4.10 (C) Riparian Window...........................................78
4.11 (D) Wetland Window...........................................78
4.12 (E) Boulder Crossing..........................................80
4.13 (F) Hidden Underfoot..........................................80
LIST OF TABLES
3.1 Missing the mark.................................................55
4.1 Narrative components.............................................63
Background to Ecorevelatory Design
The term and practice of Ecorevelatory design (ERD) was coined from a 1998
Eco-Revelatory design exhibit Nature Constructed/Nature Revealed sponsored by the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The exhibit is highlighted in Landscape
Journals 1998 special issue. The exhibit organizers defined ERD as a design strategy
that attempts to enhance site ecosystems as well as engage users by revealing
ecological and cultural phenomena, processes and relationships affecting a site.
(Brown, Harkness, & Johnston, 1998)1 Most literary reference to ERD bases
familiarity on the above definition. Unfortunately, current ERD theory has been
characterized as a vague and formless stratagem with plenty of room for
interpretation. (France, 2000; Brown, 1998; Haag, 1998; Thayer, 1998) First and
foremost the popular definition only defines intent and not a design process or
Upon examination of literature and ERD landscapes it appears a language and
stratagem can be formulated for ERD. By doing so, ERD becomes an effective tool
for landscape architecture attempting to reveal ecological/cultural relationships in
order to be more educational and foster environmental awareness and caring. The
research first disassembles current theory and practices to reassemble a conceptual
1 Ecological and cultural phenomena are defined for the purposes of this thesis to be what
encompasses the abiotic and biotic relationships and systems. Both systems are intertwined and have
shaped and continue to shape the environment. Although, ecology and culture often appear as
opposites or an either/or option to design, this thesis is attempting to tap the spectrum of grey in
model formulated to be a guided design process, which ameliorates weaknesses and
assumptions currently afflicting ERD. The model will address common concerns
associated to current practices. For example, the highly variable ways ERD interprets
and reveals ecological or cultural phenomena can be concrete or literal at one end to
highly abstract and conceptual at the other. (Thayer, 1998) Another important
criticism to address is ERD designers presume landscapes are legible or have
communicative powers to user groups with limited ecological or design knowledge.
(Eisenstein, 2001; Rottle, 2008; Brown, 1998) France (2000) claims ERDs often
have marginal or no ecological improvements, lack a core ecological strategy and are
nothing more than works of art with grandiose claims.
The first venture into the research is to address those criticisms. If ERD is to
be a successful design tool in communicating phenomena to a general public with
limited design and ecological knowledge it must adopt a design language that its
audience can understand. The result of the proposed model is not to codify ERD and
turn it into a didactic theory or limit intuitive design. It is however, looking into
using evidence based strategies to build a language and process, which can manifest
solutions to address a specific design question. In the end, the result of an ERD is
one that revives ecological services while designing an experience that interprets,
reveals and engages users in an educational perspective.
This thesis is truly driven by two questions. The first question is how can
ERD theory be applied to resolve ecological conditions, reveal them and educate
users about a set of complex ecological and cultural issues affecting the lower
Fountain Creek corridor between Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the Arkansas
River confluence in Pueblo, Colorado? A design scenario will be played out at the
Eco-Fit Educational Park (EFEP) proposed in the Fountain Creek Corridor
Restoration Master Plan. EFEP is a concept being proposed to educate, inspire and
focus users to learn about their culture, history and environment. The City of
Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs Utilities, Fountain Creek Foundation and other
partners intend to make this park a case study on how the ecology of Fountain Creek
can be improved through innovative design techniques.2 An extension of that is to
educate people with limited design or ecological knowledge about the human role in
the changes that have occurred to the Fountain Creek ecology and how those
relationships can be improved.
The first question then sets the parameters for answering the second and its
subsets. How does design create ecologically revealing moments and are some
strategies more successful at it than others? Are there tools within current theory
surrounding ERD language and strategies that can perform at a higher degree of
revealing ecological/cultural phenomena, revitalizing ecological services and
fostering environmental awareness?
As part of the driving questions, two assumptions are being tested. One is
associated with the ERD model and the other with its application in the Fountain
Any landscape can be ecologically revealing.
There are design strategies that produce ecological and culturally revealing
moments in order to educate or foster awareness of phenomena.
2 These statements are part of the Fountain Creek Corridor Restoration Master Plan.
A multilayered process will be used to answer the questions and test the
assumptions. First, literary research will dismantle ERD to reassemble a design
language and working process appropriate for meeting the design goals set forth for
the EFEP and Fountain Creek. During that inquiry several questions will be
answered including but not limited to: what is the role of ecology in ERD; what does
it mean to reveal and what is the purpose for revealing ecological phenomena; and
finally, what kind of design techniques can be used to marry art and science in order
to create an aesthetic that promotes legibility and enhances site ecologies? This
journey starts as a hermeneutical analysis of the root words ecology, reveal and
design and is intended to demystify implicit meaning and thereby materialize a
The model will also support the development of two approaches to analyze
built works on their revelatory capacity in terms of ecological and cultural
components. For the first approach, a rating scale will evaluate the extent to which a
built landscape is performing at resolving, revealing and educating about ecological
and cultural phenomena. The second approach will be taking surveys to measure
visitors interpretations of ecologically revealing landscapes. Ratings and surveys
will compare built ERDs discussed in the literature to a control site. The control site
is a nature center focused on designing ecologically educational experiences but
constructed around traditional picturesque and restoration ideals.3 Comparing the
design strategies through a rating and survey method will qualify if ERD is lacking in
a unique ability to create an ecologically revealing experience, ft is assumed other
3 Traditional design practices in this regard are those that are geared towards two design camps. The
first camp is the picturesque where the human is viewer or observer and the landscape is treated more
as an aesthetic commodity to be framed and appreciated. The second camp includes the practice of
restoration which often intends to repair anthropogenic environmental damage to a historic state. In
essence, the practice erases the human mark on the land and adopting a nature over culture philosophy.
design stratagems are just as effective as those labeled as ERDs, due to the
complexity of ecological issues and multiplicity of users ecological knowledge.
These comparisons will further refine the ERD model and be used to inform design
interventions for improving performance in revealing ecological/cultural relationships
at the proposed EFEP on Fountain Creek.
The final phase of the thesis is to use the ERD model to manifest solutions for
the EFEP. It is postulated that because ERDs intent is to design solutions as an
intellectual synthesis of art, science, nature and culture, it is a befitting strategy to
forward the overall ecological and cultural mission mandated for the lower Fountain
Creek Corridor. Interventions are not intended to be formulaic devices but to serve
as scaffolding to contrive forms that reveal an ecological and cultural narrative and
revitalize ecological services.
Unpacking the layers to ERD theory is relevant to several paradigms within
landscape architecture. ERD implicitly speaks to a long-standing debate over
ecologys role in informing design in conjunction with bringing natural and cultural
processes together in urban spaces. One challenge is determining if such landscapes
can add to a societies ecological knowledge. Although the answer appears to be yes,
there is little research on responses to specific landscapes or if design strategies
culminate as distinct educational experiences. (Hester, 2006) In fact, studies on
public perception towards ecological plantings are patchy and more research is
needed to fill gaps. (Jorgensen, 2004) As a result, the research intends to evaluate
potential impacts and perceptions to understand the probability for ERD, as well as
conventional models, to add to a users ecological knowledge. What is learned
refines strategies to achieve marked improvement in making phenomena more
noticeable and legible to a general public.4
In essence, ERD could prove useful in revitalizing ecologies and bringing
natural and cultural processes together in creative ways. Many researchers focus on
questions over whether designing natural or restoring degraded urban environments
fosters sensitivity to ecological services or changes cultural opinion and behaviors.
As of yet, there is no consensus on whether it does. Nonetheless, it is the mission of
many to tiy to build awareness to natures processes in the hopes it will change human
centered interactions with the environment. (France, 2008; Hester, 2006; Dunnett &
Hitchmough, 2004)5 A case in point is the EFEP plan to engage people in storm
water education through landscape medium. If properly implemented into aspects of
that plan, ERD should be one source to creatively show those relationships and
processes. The creation of a constituency that understands their role in urban storm
water problems as well as their role in the solutions is a possible result.
4 A general public refers to those with limited ecological or design knowledge.
5 Most of the text cited for the research have spoke in one way or another of the need to foster
environmental awareness to lead to cultural protection and care of ecological services.
Defining Ecorevelatory Design
The word Ecorevelatory brings the concepts of ecology and revelation
together in order to work in some sort of synergy. However, it does not speak to how
that synergy originates or is interpreted. Any Ecorevelatory landscape is one that
intends to resolve, reveal and educate users of ecological and cultural phenomena.
The question is whether they do and to what degree? There are varying levels of
performance in which ecologically revealing designs are successful at fulfilling those
intentions. The terms ecology, revealing (revelatory) and design all have associated
translations and theory which need to be examined further to draw out explicit and
implicit meaning. If ERD is lacking a design language then looking closely at the
root words helps refine what it means for a design to be ecologically revealing,
restorative and educational.
More specifically, the literature will be mined to develop a framework for an
ERD process to address ecological and cultural parameters appropriate for use at the
proposed Eco-Fit Education Park (EFEP) on Fountain Creek as well as other
comparable design scenarios. According to Mark Wilson with THK Associates Inc.,
the consultants who drafted the Restoration Master Plan, the intent of the park is to
provide an exciting place where people of all ages can be active in play while
learning valuable lessons about their culture, history, the environment and the
importance of fitness. The Eco part of the EFEP is looking to improve Fountain
Creek ecology with innovative design techniques such as backwater channels and
wetlands that act as a water quality filtration pond and flood storage. This will also
be a place that provides wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities. The
educational message is to teach park visitors about the Fountain Creek drainage basin,
how floods occur and the ecological processes. There is an underlying mission that
this park will be part of a region wide effort to create and enhance stewardship of
Ecology plays a big role in ERD. In the Eco-Revelatory Design: Nature
Constructed/Nature Revealed exhibition the mission was to highlight landscape
architecture strategies that reveal and interpret ecological phenomena, processes and
relationships. (Brown, 1998) Since that is the case, it needs to be established what
ecology and its design associations contribute to ERD. Debate concerning the
application of ecology in design has a long and rich past. However, there is some
consensus on how to proceed with ecological ideas to inform a design.
It is generally agreed upon that ecology incorporates a body of knowledge and
theory beneficial to landscape architecture and ecological design. Using this body of
knowledge helps discern events and processes influencing our world. Through
ecology we begin to see complex relationships and networks. (Spim, 2002)
Furthermore, ecology can serve as a guide to predicting consequences to human
intervention in ecosystems. (Forman, 2002) Ecology is traditionally thought of as a
hard science, but can also be considered a framework for understanding, or as a
metaphor or philosophical foundation for living. (Johnson and Hill, 2002)
Disciplines in applied ecology perhaps offer the greatest contribution to the
design practice. Applied ecology includes disciplines such as landscape ecology,
urban ecology, restoration ecology and many others. These different fields can be
6 The description of the EFEP and it intent is from the Fountain Creek Restoration Master Plan. Mark
Wilson provided a small booklet that detailed just the EFEP.
mined for suggestions on translating theories into practice, for example:
environmental relationships, biotic and abiotic interactions and landscape patterns.
Furthermore, scientists, design practitioners and authors have offered up ideas
regarding how to apply ecological thinking to design.
Thinking in ecological terms is not a contemporary trend but, in fact, has been
demonstrated by historic figures like Fredrick Law Olmsted and Jens Jensen.
Whether fully intended or not Olmsteds 1880 proposed plan for Bostons Back Bay
Fens demonstrates how thinking about tidal flats, vegetation and urban infrastructure
as ecological systems can yield innovations in solving environmental problems.
(Howett, 1998; Spim, 1984) Often the inception of applying ecological knowledge
to design is credited to Ian McHarg and his 1969 book Design with Nature. McHarg
uses a full range of environmental sciences during an inventory stage of a project in
order to show layers of relationships. He correlates these layers into a descriptive
biophysical model and uses this knowledge for a development suitability analysis.
More contemporary designers such as Stienitz (2002) use an ecological process
model as a framework for teaching the design process.7 His framework is a series of
models set up to answer specific design questions like, how to describe the landscape
or how the landscape should be changed.
Using frameworks help to build an understanding of ecological schema within
and around a site. Armed with ecological understanding and applicable theory
designers can avoid using generic approaches to environmental problems. (Forman,
2002) There is also an improved chance that design interventions will work with
ecological systems so not to degrade them but actually answer an environmental
problem. (Johnson & Hill, 2002) Consequently, using frameworks applies directly to
ERD. A basic ecological framework guides an ERD process; interprets what and
7 Steinitz believes design is a verb and a designer should move through the framework several times in
the design process.
how to present ecological phenomena to human users and aids in the determination of
how to heal a condition.
The following are some common themes that materialize in the literature as
essential components to an ecological design framework: (1) defining the context of
the project site through representational models; (2) analyzing internal and external
exchanges and systems; (3) predicting probable ecological ramifications caused by
design decisions which are grounded in a synthesis of ecological theory and best
scientific practices; and finally, (4) evaluating the outcomes pre and post design
install.8 (Lovell & Johnston, 2009; Hester, 2006; Hill et al., 2002; Steinitz, 2002;
Turner et. al, 2001; France, 2000; Galatowitsch, 1998; McHarg, 1969)
Ecological knowledge is used to interpret and map relationships and processes
acting upon and within a site.9 Commonly, ecologists and ecological designers ignore
the human component and evaluate conditions specifically on non-human conditions
but there has been a shift in this thinking over the later part of the 20th century.
(Pulliam & Johnson, 2002) Studies in human ecology, urban ecology and even
environmental psychology are sources for showing how humans construct, influence
and think about space. Humans have dominated almost every landscape, and it can
not be ignored that our cultures have intertwined with ecological systems. (Pulliam &
Johnson, 2002) Therefore, correlating human culture to non-human cycles builds a
comprehensive view of the sites energy flows and relationships. A comprehensive
assessment is important to ERD. It also serves as a vehicle for determining
ecological relationships and phenomena to reveal to human users.
8 The ideas behind the guided process were compiled from several readings covering ERD, landscape
ecology and ecological design. The ideas are common threads authors discuss as important elements
to a successful ecological design.
9 A site and its context can be thought of as spatial and temporal systems that correspond with human
and non-human relationships.
Each site will have its own unique ecological and cultural conditions. There
are plethora of ways to represent ecological relationships and patterns. Of course a
main concern is limitations to a models or theories ability to be generalizable to
unique situations, especially when it comes to representing the scale and complexity
of systems. (Forman, 2002) Nonetheless, there are practices within landscape
architecture and landscape ecology that offer representational methods for revealing
spatial patterns and the dynamics of interacting ecosystems. (Turner, Gardner &
ONeill, 2001) These strategies can be applied to many situations.
Dramstad, Olson and Forman (1996) explain four general landscape ecology
concepts including patch dynamics, edges/ boundaries, corridors/connectivity and
landscape mosaics. The ideas can be translated by designers to show a sites context
and dynamic structure. Linda Poliaks (2007) article in Large Parks highlights these
principles by example. Poliak analyzes how designers have translated ecological
knowledge into graphic representations. She further discusses how James Comer and
Mathur/da Cunha, have taken complex ecological matrices to think about program
and understand the nature of the landscape. (Pollack 2007)
To represent ecological context, a core group of criteria are commonly
studied. For instance spatial organization of plant communities, animal communities,
human position, hydrologic conditions, geographic features and soil types, nutrient
flows and connectivity are depicted over temporal or spatial scales.10 (Lovell &
Johnston, 2009; Forman, 2002; Pulliam & Johnson, 2002; Johnson & Hill, 2002;
Turner, Gardner & ONeill, 2001; Dramstad, Olson & Forman, 1996; McHarg, 1969)
Sources for the data include the full range of environmental and natural sciences.
(McHarg, 1969) Data is usually displayed in maps, diagrams, matrices and non-
traditional forms of graphic display to aid in analyzing functions and structures of the
10 This is more like a short list of authors who have written about important
ecological and cultural components to be considered.
Analyze, Predict and Evaluate
The practice of analyzing ecological information to guide a design process
has been promoted over many decades and by many landscape architects. Olmsted
engaged in this practice, even though it was not labeled as ecological design. He
observed phenomena with the intent to work with natures systems such as the tidal
flats in the Back Bay on the Emerald Necklace in Boston, MA. Whether through
observation or collected data, understanding ecological systems is the foundation of
conscientious design and ecologically functional landscapes. Spatial and process data
is used to determine landscape characteristics, such as patterns, distributions,
formative and destructive forces and landscape responses to events like disturbance.
They are essential to building system models or predicting what changes might occur
after interventions. (Lovell and Johnston, 2009; Simonds & Starke, 2006; Steinitz,
2002; Turner, Gardner & ONeill 2001)
A framework for
processes is necessary because
landscapes are complex
patterns. The framework
brings together and expresses
large amounts of information
about movement of energy,
material or organisms and the
influences on them. (Franklin,
1997; Ndubisi, 1997) Models
are used as simplified versions of Figure 2 Steinitz Framework for Eco|ogica| Design
complex systems to bring
awareness to the most important or basic functions. (Odum, 1997) Off of these
models qualitative predictions can be made through the stages of design development.
This idea is further highlighted in Lovell and Johnstons (2009) article showing how
ecological data can be used to guide the creation of multifunctional landscapes. They
offer a schematic diagram considering questions at each stage of the design. It starts
with spatial data inventories then moves forward to answer questions concerning
habitat composition and character or specific flow patterns like finding where water
travels after a rain event. This is similar to Steinitzs (2002) framework for design in
which ecology plays a role in answering important design questions such as how does
the landscape operate; is the current landscape working well; how might the
landscape be altered; and what predictable differences might those changes cause?
Data collected during site inventory is used to make ecological
determinations, characterize landscape structure and understand processes. (Lovell
and Johnston, 2009; Turner, Gardner & ONeill, 2001; Franklin, 1997; Woodward,
1997; McHarg 1969) Modeling this information visually helps in evaluating different
scenarios and guide planning and design decisions. McHargs suitability analysis is a
landmark example of how ecological data is analyzed to help guide design decisions.
In the traditional method, landscape forms and functions are diagramed and mapped
then layered upon each other to reveal places more suitable to human uses.
Contemporary methods use computer models, like GIS, to show hydrology,
connectivity, patch networks and geology, among others. On the most basic level a
representational model will include three components in three dimensions. The
components include communities, flow of energy and cycling of materials described
in the dimensions of space, time and subsystems. (Odum, 1983, 1997) These basic
components and dimensions are then used to test questions and make predictions.
Simple ecological formulations aid landscape architects in several ways.
They help define important parameters, limitations, resources and hazards.
Furthermore, identifying relationships and system links provides insight to efficient
uses or reducing anthropogenic impacts. (Thompson & Steiner, 1997; Odum, 1997;
Spim, 1984) Models have inherent limitations related to the scale and detail it can
represent. However, the information is significant to demonstrating the implications
of different design scenarios or effects of social values. These simplifications are
studied to better understand associations, make predictions and guide decisions.
ERD Ecology Relationship
Ecology is defined as a branch of biology dealing with the relations and
interactions between organisms and their environment.11 This study includes the
human relationship to the environment. In fact looking at cultural relationships to the
environment is a fundamental principle to ERD. Yet, ERD has been heavily
criticized for its failure to apply both ecological theory and knowledge effectively.
According to France (2000), ERD has been nothing but an expression of natural
history and revelatory design because it lacks quantitative prediction and intent to
develop or assess scientific theory. Other critiques from guest writers in Landscape
Journals 1998 Special Edition, including one from Galatowitsch (1998), which states
the exhibitors designs, should not be considered successful unless they had an
evaluation of environmental or biological consequences that occur on site after design
A core value to ERD should be one that has formulations to identify key
ecological factors, resources and hazards to determine phenomena to be revealed and
enhance comprehension of systems and social values through post occupancy studies.
Several exhibits in the ERD Nature Constructed/Nature Revealed are examples of
how ecological models convey important information that begin to inform design
decisions. For example in Fire Dynamics in the Yellowstone Landscape, a
11 "Ecology." Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 23 Sep. 2009.
http://dictionarv.reference.com/browse/ecology>. Furthermore this study can include the human
relationship to the environment.
computer animation model developed scenarios that simulated both actual fire history
and hypothetical effects of fire control on landscape dynamics in Yellowstone
National Park. The model displays ecological components and dimensions of
Yellowstones fire history in response to a social value, fire suppression. With this
model different management scenarios are compared to support the concept that fire
plays an important role in the Yellowstone landscape. (Kovacic, Craig, Patterson,
Romme & Despain 1998)
Another example is from projects dealing with storm water. From the ERD
exhibitions, Wenks Stormwater Gardens or Hansens Watermarks at the Nature
Center cues are taken from native hydrologic patterns and plant community ecology
to support visual systems of storm water flow. Besides the exhibit, other initiatives
like Seattles Green Streets used ERD principles to rethink the way urban streets
can shape urban ecologies and communities. (Hurley & Stromberg, 2008) Although
ecological processes may look different in cities, the value of understanding them is
not. Modeling processes in urban contexts is more crucial since the connection
between human action and ecological consequences is often more severe. (Hurley &
Stromberg, 2008; Hansen, 1998; Wenk & Gregg, 1998; Eades, 1998; Poole, 1998)
More research is needed on the performance, aesthetics and perceptions of
ERD landscapes. (Hester, 2006) This kind of research can improve ERDs
reputation as a valuable design theory. Post occupancy evaluation and monitoring of
built landscapes will contribute information to ecological knowledge. A suitable
metric will take cues from ecology, and other fields, to measure the potential impact
ERD has on resolving ecological issues as well as culminating in a distinct
educational experience. An example of an ERD post occupancy evaluation was
conducted by Rottle (2008) at the Cedar River Watershed Education Center in North
Bend, Washington. Cedar Rivers intent is to reveal, through landscape medium, all
the stages of the hydrologic cycle to bring about public awareness of ecological
richness and water supply function while improving environmental literacy. Rottle
(2008) used a post occupancy survey method to uncover the commonalities and
differences of peoples response to the center and mission. Results from the study
showed how people responded to the ERD differently based on the reason for their
visit. Such as on Family Archaeology Day adult visitors were more likely to notice
historic elements, while responders on Trailsfest Day showed favoritism towards the
hikes, lake and wildlife, still other visitors self identified as gardeners noticed the
Through the post occupancy evaluation Rottle discovered there are
generalizable principles able to be capitalized on by other environmental learning
institutions or ERDs. For instance designs need to incorporate diverse activities, be
complimentary to the environment and serve more than one audience. In this case an
evaluation of revelatory/educational elements and public perception strengthens the
concept that designs can promote environmental awareness at some level.
Unfortunately, without studies like the one done by Rottle, it will continue to be
questionable on whether ERD communicate a message, are revealing of phenomena
or improve ecological systems.
REVELATORY: Reveal and Educate
Revealing means opening up things that are normally hidden. Revelatory is
having the characteristics of revelation which is a state where something is
communicated or disclosed and then realized. Why reveal if not to educate?
Revealing, and its opposite concealing, have been apart of the practice of narrative
landscape design which is about telling stories through landscape medium. In that
regard ERD is about an ecological and cultural narrative, how both natural and
cultural conditions have shaped and continue to shape the landscape. ERD is about
first reading the stories in the landscape then relaying or revealing the ecological and
cultural stories with a visual and spatial language.
Communicating through landscape relies heavily on the ability of design
interventions to convey meaning as well as on the degree of knowledge of the reader.
(Brown, 1998; Philips, 1998) Landscape legibility is equally about content, form of
expression and experience. It is up to the designer to use visual and spatial languages
to reveal unique stories of the site and create experiences for visitors to respond to.
The form and content must be well matched in context and scale to maximize the
comprehension and legibility of the landscape. (Chang, Bisgrove & Liao, 2008)
There are many traditional and contemporary design interventions that can be
incorporated to reveal narratives in order to elicit a revelation from an audience.
Other sources for understanding how landscape can communicate are found in
associated theories and practices of narrative landscapes, environmental psychology
and ecological aesthetics. Again these various fields are mined to yield strategies that
create legible, memorable places and promote a deeper caring for them.
A visual and spatial vocabulary can not be elusive but must be seen and
experienced in order for interpretation of ecological/cultural phenomena through
landscape medium to happen. According to several designers the 1998 Ecorevelatory
exhibit was the call for, and beginning to, a rudimentary language. (Brown, 1998;
Thayer, 1998; Philips, 1998; Howett, 1998; Turner, 1998) Designing to reveal
phenomena at the EFEP will include revealing an ecological and cultural story of
Fountain Creek ecology. This is a story or narrative about flooding, geomorphology,
human impacts and repairing ecological services that have shaped and will shape the
landscape. As a result of uncovering this narrative the users response is hopefully
one of awareness to their role in those systems. There is a moral to the
ecological/cultural story each participant in the landscape should carry with them to
other aspects of their life. How this is accomplished can vary, yet the literature
begins to clarify the art of revelatory landscapes, how theory and practices lend to a
designs communicative powers and why revealing ecological and cultural narratives
Two areas of concern appear to be in need of refining for a revelatory
landscape to be successful in eliciting an educated perspective. This includes
legibility and cultural interpretation of a landscape language. Design strategies
employed by ERD, and others, have limitations to their communicative capacity.
Addressing concerns includes addressing the complexity and scale of the phenomena
being revealed, kinds of strategies used to highlight phenomena and lastly, how a
visual and spatial language is interpreted.
Reveal a Narrative
Why is it even important to reveal an ecological or cultural narrative? In
general an ecological/cultural narrative can speak to how the environment was and is
shaped by both ecological and cultural processes. There is uniqueness to what and
how those narratives are told. One narrative might be about the nature/culture
relationship and show how interactions have changed over time. Another may be
concerned only with expressing non-human systems and processes. In many cases
the narrative will speak to both.
Over the centuries expression of the nature/culture relationship in the designed
landscape has changed. Howett (1987) speaks of earlier times in landscape design as
scribing stories on the earth to establish our place in the cosmos. Early designers
where telling narratives with the landscape that spoke of the struggles of heroes,
saints and ordinary men and women. Well known places like Villa Lante and Villa
dEste were more about mans dominance, survival and perseverance over nature.
(Potteiger & Purinton, 1998; Howett, 1987) Surroundings were framed for views and
treated as scenery. Everything outside of the garden was not considered as a lifeline
for proper ecological functioning. In fact the clean disruption between wild nature
and mans garden reinforced the idea of control. In the middle of the 18th century a
body of theory and principles of composition came about known as the picturesque
that turned the landscape into a series of views.12 (Howett, 1987) Again it was about
controlling the scenery, creating order and further separating man as surveyor,
composer and ruler of the landscape. This man/nature story and the techniques for its
expression have molded landscape architecture. However the narrative is being re-
written by contemporary practices including ERD.
The contemporary ecological narrative is much different. Over the past few
decades many scholars and scientists have authored texts calling for a new paradigm
of ecological thought and practices to improve man/nature relationships. (France,
2008; France, 2005; Czemiak & Hargreaves, 2007; Hester, 2006; Dunnett &
Hitchmough, 2004) For many, the ecological narrative is about humans taking
responsibility for our interventions and redefining our place in nature as a partner to
ensure it is functioning properly. The ERD exhibit has been touted as a signal in the
transition from a cultural model of dominance to one of partnership. (Turner, 1998;
Merchant, 1998) In so being it constructs meaning and language that unfolds the
12 There is a lot of debate in the literature about the picturesque and classic renaissance theory and
composition principles as being in opposition to an ecological aesthetic. However, classic traditions
offer tools that enhance a landscape narrative as well as involving the reader in the story.
relationship between cultural expectation and ecological systems to gamer acceptance
of our responsibility to nature and to move to a new paradigm of sustainability.13
(Turner, 1998; Merchant, 1998; Thayer, 1998; Philips, 1998; Brown, 1998) If
successful in conveying the new ecological narrative the moral or conclusion to this
story will be society gaining an ecological literacy which will foster a consciousness
of our environment and living intimately with it.14 (France, 2008; Hester, 2006;
Of course this concept relies heavily on the ability of design interventions to
convey meaning as well as the degree of knowledge of the reader.15 (Brown, 1998;
Philips, 1998) On one hand ERD is criticized for remaining subtle, opaque and
hidden behind abstraction and illegibility. (France, 2000) While on the other it is
praised for its ability to foster awareness. (Hester, 2006) It must be acknowledged
that communication, whether through verbal or non-verbal means, is highly
contextual and culturally driven. (Eisenstein, 2001) For that reason ERD must
amalgamate local ecology and culture to formulate an understandable landscape
Leading scholars in landscape architecture, environmental psychology,
cultural geography and the science of experience have illustrated how distinct
cultures have unique conceptual structures that give environments meaning. (Gobster
& Nassauer, 2007; France, 2000; Spim, 1998; Kaplan & Kaplan, 1998; Tuan, 1977)
13 Sustainability in this context means thinking about, interacting with and using the environment to
meet our current needs in ways that does not compromise future generations ability to meet their
14 The discussion of the need for society to have an environmental consciousness has been going on for
decades and across disciplines. Rachel Carsons Silent Springs is often considered the beginning of
contemporary environmental awareness and call for a new environmental ethic. France edited
Healing Natures Repairing Relationships in 2008 showing how this debate is ongoing and the how
to to creating awareness is still considered a top priority over multiple disciplines.
15 The reader is individuals and groups who are experiencing the design intervention. The
knowledge of the reader has to relate to ecological aesthetics and cultural meanings to symbolic
Therefore, before an ERD can be communicative it must tap into those distinct
cultural structures as much as the ecological ones.
Legibility Complexities of Scale
In the Ecorevelatory exhibit, designers exposed ecological phenomena from
the scale of a parking lot (Stormwater Gardens Wenk) to the Yellowstone
ecosystem (Fire Dynamics in the Yellowstone Landscape Craig et al.). There was
also a large variation in the complexity of systems addressed from storm water runoff
(Urban Ecological Retrofit Nassauer) to mining reclamation (Ring Parks as Inverted
Dikes Hill). This raises concerns over the simplification of phenomena and whether
they communicate the entire picture. What is represented is only a portion of the
ecosystem and processes at work. (Thayer, 1998; Philips, 1998) Furthermore, Brown
(1998) expressed concern over the fact that many of the designs were of a public
scale and did not show opportunity for individual experiences to promote the long-
term tinkering and care of a place.
Over-simplification is a risk to distilling complicated ideas and systems.
There is only so much intangible, aspatial and invisible information that can be
conveyed in the limits of a site specific landscape. (Thayer, 1998) Place experience
disciplines have studied how humans understand their environment on a scale that is,
what Gobster (2008) calls the perceptible realm.16 In his finding, human-environment
interactions occur in a perceptible realm which is the scale and processes in which
most people are cognitive of. These are the first layers of our environment: elements,
features and processes that are on the surface. Systems to networks that are complex,
16 Gobster was using a phenomenological approach to examine Yellowstone Park as a scenic beauty
landscape versus ecologically aesthetic experience. In his finding, human-environment interactions
occur in a perceptible realm which is the scale and distilled processes in which most people are
abstract or on a scale outside to the human perceptible realm are not understood or
Yet, revealing fragments of a total allows us to make more sense of our world
and begin the discovery process which will lead to a greater understanding of the
multiplicities and layers of the whole. (Thayer, 1998) This does not mean ERD needs
to narrow the category of phenomena it addresses. It is about signifying features in
the landscape that speak for natural and cultural processes that might otherwise
remain invisible. (Guest Editors Introduction 1998) In other words, it is about
revealing fragments of the total to open up views to areas outside of the human
perceptible realm. This change from the everyday starts a journey into awareness.
Legibility Visual and Spatial Vocabulary
Revealing is one of many techniques used in a narrative landscape model. In
Landscape Narratives. Potteiger and Purinton (1998) define narratives as referring
both to stories of events, characters and settings and how those stories are
communicated through product, form and process. In essence landscape narratives
can be decoded if one knows how to read them or retold through different narrative
forms, settings and elements. (Potteiger & Purinton, 1998; Spim, 1998) Landscapes
are then story and storyteller. As designers we can study and manipulate landscape to
create a visual and spatial language to reveal narratives and actualize an experience.
The drawback of traditional narrative techniques is they become antiquated as
contemporary culture transforms meaning or looses associations. Yet, traditional
strategies and models engage the process of interpretation for designer and reader
alike, even though there are aspects that are multifaceted and dynamic. 17
17 Experience is the physical and cognitive result of being engaged in the landscape. Much of ones
experience in a narrative landscape depends on his or her ability to read the medium in which the story
There are many techniques and narrative modes to choose from such as
revealing, and its opposite concealing. Other forms, strategies and elements have
been and should be used in ERD in order to give a richer interpretation to the
narrative experience. Revealing and concealing is an approach for exploring the
ideas, secrets and transparency while deciding which hidden layers and unspoken
narratives are unveiled. (Diamond, 2001; Potteiger & Purinton, 1998; Brown, 1998)
It fits well with the ecological narrative because so much about natures systems are
hidden or an intellectual secret. An example can be found at the Pinecote Interpretive
Center of the Crosby Arboretum where the designer cut a grid through the site to
reveal how subtle moisture gradients changed vegetation types. (Potteiger & Purinton,
1998) They used other devices as well to structure an ecological narrative about
habitat succession and European settlement. In all the intent is to guide visitors
through a story of ecology over time and encourage them to read the landscapes
Despite limitations to narrative strategies the overall intent is to open up
secrets in the landscape to initiate curiosity and exploration. Therefore, ERD needs
solid grounding in the theory and practices that guide narrative landscapes to ensure
communicative effectiveness. How people respond to spatial situations or read
landscapes has been studied by environmental psychologist as well as landscape
There are many traditional design and contemporary interventions that can be
incorporated into telling an ecological or cultural narrative. To truly create a rich
experiential and educational landscape design, it must incorporate many narrative
approaches, like sequencing, naming as well as spatial organization strategies and
engaging physical and sensory modes. It is not the intent of the research to list all the
design strategies but develop core criteria to improve legibility. A case in point is a
study on improving education functions in botanic gardens by Chang, Bisgrove and
Liao (2008). Their study showed that when landscape narrative techniques are well
matched with the educational content it is visually preferred as well as
Other narrative languages include theory, principles, schema and codification
of interventions that have been handed down through the centuries from masters to
students. Traditions in landscape design have shaped contemporary practices and
formulated cultural perceptions. Traditional principals of design, like the picturesque,
have been heavily criticized for being incompatible with an ecological aesthetic.
However, designing with picturesque ideals may help resolve perception that
ecological design is devoid of human intention. Another aspect of the picturesque
that can carry over into an ecological aesthetic is how it inscribed the landscape with
triggers and prompts. (Hunt, 2004) These are the inscribed cues in the landscape that
indicate what a user is there to do or see. Triggers can be abstract interventions such
as cues to care, framing views, creation of intimate space or contrasting situations to
more literal interventions like paths, benches or way finding markers. Whether
directly read by an audience or unconsciously responded to culturally accepted
triggers and prompts can construct a spatial use or evoke certain responses.
Reveal to Educate
At the EFEP, telling ecological/cultural narratives is about fostering
awareness. Bringing something to light often sparks curiosity which hopefully leads
to learning, then understanding. The result is users gain the skill of interpreting
ecological processes and functions. Furthermore, Gobster and Naussaur (2007)
believe having a common ecological language or aesthetic will bring environmental
values into alignment.18 Nonetheless, creating awareness of ones milieu enhances
pleasure and knowledge and helps unravel the narratives embedded in the landscape.
18 Having a common ecological language or ecological aesthetic can be used interchangeably.
Aesthetics here is synonymous with language; both are the visual cues found in the landscape like
words in a story.
(Howett, 1987) Strengthening place experience is a necessary foundation to sustain
an educational interpretation from the landscape.
One hurdle to ecological design is cultural acceptance. It has been postulated
the reason many cultures do not accept ecological designs is because they can not be
read and understood as beneficial. (Naussaur, 1995) It has been found ecological
designs are commonly perceived as messy or uncared for, and therefore, people do
not fully appreciate their functional benefits. (Gobster, 2008; Gobster & Nassauer,
2007; Ryan, 2005; Naussaur, 1995) An illustration is a flood catchment basin found
in Commons Park in Denver, Colorado. It has been designed to function as
ecological flood mitigation for the South Platte River. There is native vegetation,
grasses, trees and shrubs planted in a naturalistic pattern with meandering gravel
paths. By some it is viewed as an unfinished, uncared for portion of a highly
designed park. The juxtaposition next to traditionally designed elements may only
reinforce that perception. Of course the counter is that if cultural cues grounded in
traditional design frameworks were employed on some level the quality of ecological
aesthetics there would be an opportunity for interpretation, care and acceptance of
more a natural system. (Nassauer, 1995)
Some design strategies may easily bridge the gaps between an ecological
aesthetic, cultural acceptance and environmental knowledge, even though centuries of
traditional landscape design has influenced design practice and cultural perceptions.
An example of the struggle to change cultural perceptions is Central Park in New
York City. It was designed on the principles of the picturesque and scenic beauty.
Central Park is an iconic landscape and perceived by many as an idyllic natural
aesthetic. Unfortunately, many natural systems can not sustainably support
picturesque cannons. Likewise, natural landscapes are not always perceived as
attractive. Gobster (2008) listed distinctions between scenic and ecological
aesthetics. According to Gobster, scenic aesthetics include snapshot visuals,
composed, static and passive elements where ecological aesthetics lean more towards
multi-sensory, messy, dynamic and participatory elements. They appear to be on
opposite ends of the spectrum, but often combining the two methods enhances
ecological literacy and promotes healthy relationships between aesthetics, ecology
Various methods and frameworks have been used to build theory around why
natural environments attract and are appreciated by people; to determine whether
some natural patterns are better than others; determine whether people can interpret
natural environments and evaluate their benefits; and to answer if there is a way to
design spaces to enhance beneficial influences. (Kaplan & Kaplan 1998) What
Kaplan and Kaplan found is there are strong commonalities in categorizing the
experiences of natural environments by people not trained in environmental fields.
Use of preference ratings by untrained subjects yielded that spatial properties,
kinesthetic ability and ability to orient ones self are important categories in
environmental preferences. There are varying complexitities to why and how people
become attached to places. In addition to kinesthetic ability or wayfinding the
aptitude to form concepts has given humans the unique capacity to associate meaning
to place. (Tuan, 1977)
The end task is to be legible and culturally sensitive in order for users to gain
the skill of interpreting ecological processes and functions. This includes taking
complex, hidden phenomena and revealing it on a human scale. Furthermore, a visual
and spatial language with strategies to highlight phenomena and be readily interpreted
by those with limited design and ecological knowledge must be adopted. Finally,
ERD will need to take cues from cultural preferences, ecological aesthetics and place
experience to enhance ecological literacy and promote healthy relationships between
aesthetics, ecology and culture.
DESIGN: Experience and Process
Design, as Steinitz (2002) puts it, is a verb. It is about process and methods
for arriving at a design solution. It is where the rubber meets the road and when the
science of ecology and the art of revealing come together to create spaces that are
experiential for the human user. In summation, the hermeneutical investigation into
ERDs meaning, shows it attempts to merge ecology, which is supported by scientific
knowledge, and revelation, which is supported by the art of narrative landscape
design. The literature review has aided the reconstruction of the subsequent process
framework. It speaks to what much of the literature alludes to what ERD needs to
manifest into a solid design theory. This includes having an inquiry process to unfold
the ecological and cultural history, legibly reveal phenomena and through a
combination of art and science, create an ecologically functioning, experiential
landscape to stimulate curiosity and encourage ecological literacy.
The proper balancing of ecology and art would neither allow ecology to
displace art in the discipline of landscape architecture nor encourage a Disney style
ecology supported only by artistic gestures. (Lister, 2007; Comer, 1997; Olin, 1997)
ERD has the potential to be what Comer (1997) terms as eco-imaginative where
design liberates and diversifies both biological and cultural life. An ideal conclusion
is spaces separated by scale so that large areas support ecological functions and
smaller human scale places have more artistic gestures to educate, be aesthetic or
create experiential spaces. (Lister, 2007) No matter how the blending manifests,
ecology and art, must support the other in order to repair relationships and sustain
culture. This means creating a level of presentation to an ERD design that is legible,
functional and has culturally sensitive aesthetics. As Meyer (2008) has written in her
manifesto, ecological designs will not sustain culture alone but must consider
aesthetics so to re-center human consciousness and environmental awareness.
What the preceding discussion on ecology, revealing and design culminates in
is a set of parameters for an ERD process model. (Figure 2.2) The following diagram
fuses the science of narrative inquiry with an ecological design framework developed
by Stienitz (2002). Narrative inquiry is appropriate to this study because it is used to
describe and classify in a systematic inquiry the nature or qualities of scene and
plot.19 (Roily et al., 2005) In this case the scene is the landscape and the plot is the
cultural and ecological processes that have shaped and continually shape the scene.
This method is commonly used in understanding landscapes language and the way
people shape and make sense of their environment. Ecological and cultural systems
have process, structures and patterns which can be decoded into a narrative of change
over time. The main assumption is over time these layers of memories can be
unpacked to unfold the landscape narrative. (Spim, 1998; Potteiger & Purinton 1998)
The narrative inquiry method is appropriate to this ERD model because it is a
systematic discovery of cultural and ecological process. Narrative inquiry methods
uncover layers linked to the site and those layers to be revealed in order to enlighten
and educate. Since many ecologies and cultures have unique associations and
processes influencing the landscape, a narrative inquiry unravels the uncommon from
the common. For example, the act of day lighting streams reveals a cultural and
ecological narrative. The first layer of day lighting speaks of a past condition of
healthy riparian ecologies. Natures drainage systems were covered by culture
because rivers were considered urban hazards. However, now buried streams are
viewed as a potential amenity to incorporate nature back into an urban system starved
for nature interaction. Even the simple act of revealing a buried stream has nuances
of meaning to different cultures and ecological regions. It is important for a designer
to understand the past so they can discern meanings and languages of the landscape.
19 The description, methods and other forms of qualitative observational research can be found at
http:/Avritine.colostate.edu/guides/research/observe/index.cfm. Accessed 12/10/09,
Knowing the narratives allows the designer to be more effective in communicating
conceptual ideas by inscribing another narrative into the landscape. In the case of
ERD the next layer in the narrative is about cultures desire to improve the
Deterioration Impacts Homogeneity
Product / Post Occupancy Evaluation
Figure 2.2 ERD Process Diagram
Case studies further decode the meaning and strategies of designed places that
intend to reveal and educate users about ecological and/or cultural phenomena. Data
generation for these studies is obtained through a rating analysis and surveys. The
case studies represent built landscapes highlighted in the Nature Constructed/Nature
Revealed exhibit as well as in the literature. They are compared against a control site,
the Fountain Creek Nature Center in Fountain, CO, that also aims to educate about
ecology but uses preservation, restoration and picturesque design canons. Sites
highlighted as ERDs include Wenk and Associates old office location on Cherokee
Street in Denver, CO; Shop Creek located in Cherry Creek Reservoir State Park in
Aurora, CO; Pueblo Nature and Raptor Center in Pueblo, CO; Cedar River Watershed
Education Center in North Bend, WA; and the Seattle Olympic Sculpture Park in
Rating Analysis and Surveys
The data attempts to quantify the degree to which these landscapes meet an
ideal scenario for the EFEP. The criteria is set to measure how legible the narratives
and phenomena are; the experiential layering of physical, aesthetics and cognitive
modes; and finally, the degree to which the landscape has revitalized abiotic and
biotic conditions.20 Not only is the data addressing the desired outcomes for the
20 Providing layers of experiences is how to encourage multiple reads of a site. It also becomes a place
that is interesting and curious to many users instead of a few.
EFEP but also the common criticisms of ERD. Ratings and surveys are two methods
commonly used to evaluate achievement of a condition or preferences to one. In this
case the rating system is a tool to systematically dissect each site in order to
deconstruct the landscapes and discover valuable combinations of landscape
presentation. Ranking the landscapes clarifies where on a spectrum of possibilities
each case achieves the EFEP mission, ecological benefits and revelatory legibility.
Regarding the surveys, data
is only collected on the Fountain
Creek Nature Center and the Pueblo
Nature and Raptor Center. The
following three groups, youth,
adults-non design professional and
landscape architecture students,
completed the surveys. Surveys
qualify preferences and readability
of the landscapes. The Pueblo
Nature and Raptor Center was
chosen because it was featured in the
Nature Constructed Nature Revealed
exhibit and has remnants of the
original design. Richard Hansen
graded the site and opened up storm
water drainage in order to reveal
water flows, flooding events and
cottonwood ecology. He used sculpture, plantings and daylighting to reveal
phenomena. Furthermore, the theme of the Pueblo Nature Center is to engage
ecological concepts about interrelationships between animal, plant and human
communities. The design strategies used at Pueblo Nature Center (Pueblo) are
compared to those employed at the Fountain Creek Nature Center (FCNC). FCNCs
theme is to introduce visitors to the wonders of wetlands by providing ways to
observe and study the wetland environment. At FCNC the mission is to develop an
awareness, understanding and appreciation for plants and animals as well as natural
processes that shape the riparian/wetland ecosystems.
Each group visited both sites and recorded their opinions in relation to survey
statements as well as marked what they saw at each station. Questions on the survey
correlate to the rating categories and are meant to capture how the landscapes are
being read by different user groups. Additionally they allow for examination on
whether ERD interventions are even noticed or extrapolated. The results help
develop an ERD language that has form and legibility to a general audience.
Appendix 1 contains the surveys.
Rating, preference and inventory analysis are methods used in landscape
architecture, environmental psychology, phenomenology and natural resource
management. Those fields have yielded samples for landscape evaluation relevant to
this study. These include Visual Resource Assessments and preference studies such
as those performed by Kaplan and Kaplan. They are the scaffolding ERD
assessments maneuver to measure categories concerning legibility, narrative, ecology
Commonly, visual resource management is employed by government agencies
such as the USDA Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. They are
employed for visual analysis on forest or other natural resource landscapes. In its
basic concept it is meant to address issues of aesthetics and public perceptions of
21 Multiple studies have used these types of techniques and were consulted to determine the measured
phenomena and how it was measured. They include research done by; Fry et at. (2009), Panagopoulos
(2009), Kaplan and Taskin (2006), Sheppard (2004), Bell (2001), Hull (1989) and Kaplan 1985.
visual landscape characteristics.22 The analysis intent is to quantify observations,
research, landscape design and public perception to aid management decisions.
(Sheppard, 2004; Fry, Tveit, Ode & Velarde, 2008; Panagopoulos, 2008; Hull &
Revell, 1989; Palmer & Hoffman, 2000) Techniques used in visual analysis include
conducting landscape character inventories, identifying compositional types,
organizing visual units and collecting public perception information through site
visits, photographs and surveys. The assessments are done in a systematic way so
predictions or evaluation of existing conditions, as well as visual effects of an activity
on the landscape can be assessed. (Sheppard, 2004)
Visual quality and preference assessments have been heavily critiqued in
several areas. One is for promoting a picturesque landscape ideal. It has been
criticized because it is measuring visual scenes based on one experiential mode, sight.
In that regard, evaluations tend to put more emphasis on composition than ecology or
multi-sensory experience. The ideal landscape is measured against a traditional
scenic beauty aesthetic, rather than an ecological one, even if it has contradictory
implications for the landscape. (Gobster & Nassauer 2007) As a result it raises
concern over the tool having the ability to evaluate the landscape experience as a
whole. Visual appeal alone does not create the entire experience. With this matter in
consideration the frameworks for the ERD evaluations are modified to take account
of other modes of experiencing the landscape. In addition to the visual measurements
mentioned, ecological aesthetics, modes of experience and memorable factors of the
visitor experience are being quantified.23
22 Although we have a cultural tradition of what defines a beautiful landscape, often based on the
picturesque, it is not always compatible with ecological systems. The technique for this thesis is not
using it to assess scenic value but inquiring into the reading or language of the landscape and
determining whether it can be read.
23 As it relates to ERD the satisfaction of visitor experience should be evaluated on the success of
revealing ecological and cultural phenomena to the user. Did the design communicate its intent and
was the visitor able to translate it on some level?
Visual analysis has assumptions that often test the applicability of results. It is
a common assumption landscapes have a physical reality as well as a reality which
depends on individual perceptions. As a result issues in how these realities are
measured and by whom, have raised concerns over visual assessment as a valid tool
for measuring landscapes. (Sheppard, 2004; Palmer & Hoffman, 2001; Hull &
Revell, 1989; Kaplan & Kaplan, 1998; Kaplan 1985) One way this issue is addressed
is by having several groups complete the surveys. Incorporating the landscape
architecture student group is used to give a reliability rating. (Palmer & Hoffman,
2001) Other resources have been consulted for insights into survey construction.
These include quantitative methods used in public administration offered by Welch
and Comer (2001); park and neighborhood measurements by Lourkaitou-Sideris and
Sideris (2010); and Lift and Yost (2004). According to Sheppard (2004) there are
several reasons to conduct visual analysis. They are done in compliment to
ecological, economic and social data to support decision-making; support projects
where aesthetics are important; monitor performance; provide indicators or predictors
of public perception; and finally, provide documentation over time. These reasons
translate easily to why the assessments on ERDs are conducted under a similar
framework. Data collected on case studies will translate into which ERD indicators
and ecological design characteristics are considered to have visual and experiential
quality and are easily interpreted. The following hierarchical analysis tree is the
consolidation of categories pertinent to the ERD assessments (Figure 3.2). They are
distilled from various sources in landscape architecture, environmental psychology,
cultural geography, phenomenology and visual resource management, among others.
In essence it is showing the attributes needed for legibility, narrative, ecological
process and experience to amalgamate into an ERD that resolves, reveals and
In the category of legibility it is trying to measure the degree a design
intervention can be easily read as a didactic moment. Legibility is dependant on
several factors. How much a concept must be abstracted from what is represented to
the reader? Does the form have a literal translation, or is it too complex? Another
important component to legibility is the context and scale of concepts and
phenomena. Legibility will be hindered if ideas are out of place or too large in scale
to be represented in small scale forms. The next category is the narrative. It will be
measured for the layers and techniques used to reveal an ecological and cultural story.
The third category is related to how the design resolves or improves on ecological
conditions. Metrics are dependant on the intactness, integrity and appropriateness of
abiotic and biotic elements. It is a measure of ecological health and function
associated with the site and whether the design revitalizes or disturbs those
conditions. Last is the experiential category. It measures whether the design
incorporates aesthetics, experiential modes and cognitive values. The combination of
strategies should have desirable solutions to experiences like way finding.
Furthermore, the appropriate degrees of layering will encourage longevity of stay,
frequency of visitation as well as elicit curiosity.
The sources for the selected indicators and their nomenclature are found in
table format in Appendix 2. Each indicator is given a score from five (5) to one (1).
A score of five (5) would mean there is a considerable number or a high degree of
ways the criteria is met and a score of one (1) would mean there is none or a low
degree. After the various indicators are scored they are added to reach a total value
rating. If a site met all the criteria it would score a 185. Based on the overall score
each site is ranked for its ability to meet an ideal scenario for ERD.
Abstraction Message Expectedness
Context Site Conceptual
Scale Phenomena Surroundings Relevance
Intactness Connectivity Function Abiotic
Integrity Health Scales Biotic
Sensory Cues For care
Cognitive Longevity Unity
Modes Accessibility Vividness
Aesthetics Curiosity Way finding
Figure 3.2. ERD Analysis Tree.
The ERD rating method was completed on six (6) case studies. Three graphic
analyses were also done to visually dissect Wenks Office, Shop Creek and Cedar
River Education Center, and to generally demonstrate how the rating indicators are
being extrapolated. The findings will be discussed for each site, followed by a brief
summation on how the findings will inform a foundation to an ERD language.
Description: Wenks Office is located in the middle of a city block. It is a small
garden bordered by buildings, streets and parking lots. In many regards it is an
intimate place for people working in the adjacent office to sit outside and enjoy. The
phenomena being revealed is storm water. Open rain spouts pour into concrete
catchments which convey water to a small infiltration bed. (Figure 3.3)
ERD Rating: 89 (out of 185)
Discussion: Wenks office is a highly designed garden oasis in the city. At the
human scale it offers respite from concrete and steel. Within the confines of a garden
space it has revealed storm water as a spectacle event. Instead of water being
conveyed through pipes and forgotten, drains are opened up and water once again can
filter into the ground. This is counter to what is expected or traditional conveyance
where water is carried away by gutters.
Where it fits within the ERD model is the intimate garden scale that
encourages long term frequency and care. The use of artistic interpretations for
traditional water conveyance adds to the spectacle of the garden. In this small space
one can find natural plantings contrasted to rigid geometries. In summation, the
garden reveals storm water, but only fractionally resolves ecological services or
The rating system shows that the site has limited capacity to educate the
average passerby about the phenomena being revealed. This is related to several
factors. First the property is private and is not meant for public engagement. Privacy
issues limit access, frequency and the longevity someone could spend studying the
garden. Counter to that, it is a place the people working in the office can spend quiet
moments sitting in the courtyard. Second, ecological services are limited to using
roof runoff in a small drainage area. If the idea had spread to other areas of the street
it could have been like the Seattle Green Streets Project and services runoff from the
entire street. Yet, the small garden space has no connectivity to offsite.
The ERD model can be strengthened from this design by looking at how the
phenomena are revealed, aesthetics and the creation of intimate space. Opening up
systems reveals something out of the everyday context. The design of the space has
cues for care, unity and being in the city context offering distinction from the
surroundings. Often times intimate human scaled settings are lacking in large
ecological designs. When at human scale, the impact of subtle changes is more
noticeable. For example, the concrete catchments in this garden are an artistic piece
in comparison to common rain gutters.
Wenk and A55oc. Cherokee 5t. Office Denver, CO.
Spectacle event Access to Enclosure linueed access rom ovts-de
Figure 3.3 Wenk Analysis
Seating for respite
Unity and contrast
Description: Shop Creek is a creek that feeds into Cherry Creek Reservoir. Over the
years the upper watershed of Shop Creek has been developed. This resulted in
erosion and pollution associated with anthropogenic activities. Shop Creek was
redesigned to reduce erosion and engage the ecological services of wetlands to filter
runoff. The intent is to resolve, reveal and educate about water quality, ecology and
cultures role in it. (Figure 3.4)
Discussion: Shop Creek provides wetland services to filter erosion, pollution and
runoff from the urban context. The design provides a series of drop structures to
alleviate elevation changes. Drop structures take the form of small ridges or stair
steps. They are constructed of concrete and natural materials in order to blend in with
the surroundings as well as be different from traditional grey concrete drop structures.
Signs along the adjacent trail interpret the storm and urban water problem. The drop
structures and signs are combined in part to reveal a cultural and ecological narrative.
Shop Creek provides creative elements to deal with storm water erosion and
pollution. Ecological services not only include wetland filtration but wildlife habitat.
Simple interpretive signages are rudimentary cognitive layers. Secondary cognitive
layers come from open access which initiates the journey into exploration. Access is
allowed to the drop structures and wetlands.
Where Shop Creek scored low in the rating system is its lack of design layers
that engage the cultural and ecological narrative, intimate scales to encourage longer
stays and the uninviting nature of off trail access. With one paved trail and only one
bench the chances of someone stopping to stay are minimal. Another factor is off
trail access is difficult to navigate because of rough terrain or dense vegetation. This
is reflective of ecological designs that are more about the ecology and less about the
Figure 3.4 Shop Creek Analysis.
Cedar River Watershed Education Center
Description: Cedar River Center is operated by Seattle Public Utilities. It was
constructed with the intent to engage a dialogue about water resources and land
stewardship. The center overlooks Rattlesnake Lake and has facilities to serve
various groups in an educational experience. It helps visitors to understand the
complex issues surrounding the future of drinking water and healthy watersheds.
Green roofs, art and water are the vehicles in which the design reveals the cultural
and ecological narrative about clean water and how culture plays a role in its
stewardship. (Figure 3.5)
Discussion: Cedar River has used art to engage users in a multidimensional and
evocative experience. The schema includes sounds, dynamic visuals, texture and
form, among others. A combination of design strategies makes it engaging on many
levels. For example, it has framed views to reveal context to the watershed and
cultural markers tell of past uses. Some of those cultural markers are in abstract
forms while others are not. This strategy is illustrated by a gallery of old Maples
lining one of the walks. As a user enters the site they see a large maple framed by the
veranda. As they move closer a sign reveals they are remnants of an old railroad
settlement. Other indicators tell stories related to cultural treatment of water. Such as
old drain pipes cut into pieces and used as either paving or rain catchments. One can
extrapolate how rain water has traditionally been thought of as a plumbing problem.
In every rating category Cedar River garnered a perfect fit to the desired ERD
model. It has layers of legibility, including first layer active interpretation. It also
incorporates a narrative of water cycles and watershed stewardship. Ecological
services are provided through green roof technology, and experiential modes are
physical as well as sensorial. There is abstraction to literal translation of phenomena.
The context and message is relevant to the setting in the watershed and to the State
Park that encompasses the center.
Figure 3.5 Cedar River Analysis
Design strategies include opening and enclosing views with overlooks, buildings and
vegetation. Dynamic art displays like the rain drums timed to Native American
rhythms, captivate the auditory and visual senses. Within the center area the paths
and walks are textured with engravings and various materials. Other paths connect to
a network of trails in the State Park. There are human scale places and moments of
vastness. Aesthetically, it addresses cultural expectation and preferences. Although
it contrasts from the more natural surroundings, the design has a gradient between the
unmanaged nature and the interior designed spaces.
Overall, it is a place that is complex and sensorial. It will have many reads
each time someone visits. With the accessibility to the surrounding park system,
opportunity to learn about ones environment grows exponentially. As a result the
Cedar River mission of fostering a dialogue to meet environmental stewardship
challenges is achieved.
Olympic Sculpture Park/Nurse Log
Description: The Olympic Sculpture Park and Nurse Log exhibit are in the heart of
downtown Seattle. As part of the design, Washington State habitats serve as the
back drop to the art. The intention is for plants from each ecosystem found in
Washington to be used to educate users about the ecosystems and cultural uses for the
native plants. The success of doing such is limited considering the conditions in
downtown Seattle. As a result the park is a designer ecology with surface
nomenclature to the regions they are trying to represent.
Discussion: In the context of downtown Seattle a designer ecology may be
revelatory enough to fascinate visitors with the representative habitats. Displays,
such as the nurse log, incite curiosity because they are novel or out of context.
Another way the park elicits attention to native plants is by using them in formal
design patterns. However, such a display will never actually resolve ecological
services or function as an ecosystem. Plants and mini systems will always be in the
proper care and maintenance of park personnel. Places like the Olympic sculpture
park do perhaps serve as a launching pad for discovery. The park acts as an
enticement for one to venture to the native habitats in the state.
Pueblo Nature Center (Pueblo)
Description: Pueblo will be examined further when reviewing the surveys but in
brief it was originally designed to convey flash floods that often inundated the nature
center when thunderstorms rolled through the Pueblo plains. The site was graded to
move water away from buildings and toward the lower cottonwood riparian habitats.
Only a remnant of the original Ecorevelatory piece exists. Nonetheless, the center
has a mission and has used design to create an environmental/cultural educational
Discussion: What Pueblo really has going for it is the accessibility allowed to the
site. Open for free exploration are the Arkansas River, cottonwood forests and
grassland habitats. Along with the multitude of opportunities to explore comes
frequency and longevity of visits. Pueblo offers a natural environment in close
proximity to the city. There is a regional trail connecting the facilities to downtown
Pueblo as well as the Pueblo Reservoir State Park. Experiential modes include visual
overlooks, hiking, biking, fishing, collecting, playing in the river, picnicking, sitting,
reading, off trail exploration, guided educational walks and more. The result is
people interact with the environment in more ways than just passive recreation alone.
Where Pueblo rated lower is in the legibility of the cultural and ecological
narrative of the site. The processes of storm water, flash flooding and the dependence
of cottonwoods on those conditions, are easily overlooked. The intent of Pueblo is to
educate on concepts of interrelationships between plant, animal and human
communities. These lessons are not revealed through art or design but can be
extracted if someone knows what to look for.
Fountain Creek Nature Center (FCNC)
Description: Again, Fountain Creek Nature Center will be studied more in depth
using the surveys. The rating system affirms that Fountain Creek has ecologically
revealing moments that fit well within the desired ERD model. However, it does not
reveal a cultural narrative unless someone knows how to read that relationship from
the landscape. Fountain Creek has legible messages and design strategies to take
visitors on an educational journey through different habitats.
Discussion: Fountain Creek rates high in its ability to resolve and educate about
ecological phenomena. Wetland zones provide a unique habitat experience compared
to the dry upland plains normally found along the front range of Colorado. Wetlands
provide a vivid lush contrast against the sparse dry shrubby grasslands. Vegetation is
not the only aspect of the space making it distinctive but the wildlife as well. The
sounds and animation from wildlife creates an auditory and visual experience.
Ecologically, Fountain Creek is apart of the Fountain Creek corridor and regional
park system. The wetland and riparian habitats have integrity, intactness and are
appropriately situated to be functional and healthy.
Fountain Creek rates low in its ability to tell the cultural narrative of how
people have shaped the environment along with ecological processes. The human
relationship with the landscape takes a back seat to ecological processes. As a result
the visitor is an observer instead of a participant. Nonetheless, there are clues to the
fact the site is manipulated and managed by people. The experience is designed to
leave the impression that Fountain Creek is a sanctuary from the human world.
Furthermore, what narrative exists is told through signage, overlooks and trails.
There is no free exploration and only limited activities to participate with the site. As
a consequence it limits the frequency of visitation because there is only certain modes
of experience in which to be engaged.
Moments of Unexpectedness
The rating system is not going to account for every revelatory moment. It will
never capture every nuance because design and people are complex. However, the
rating system has drawn out strategies that work and do not work to create the
experience sought after at the EFEP. What the ratings begin to uncover is how
revelatory techniques have been used to make legible statements about the
nature/culture narrative through landscape medium. If a form can leave an
understandable mark in the landscape it will go farther in fostering a relationship
between people and landscapes.
The ERD language unraveled from the ratings includes the following:
1. Legibility includes literal interpretations to abstract ones. Signage is an
important first layer to start the user on a journey of discovery. Abstraction of
concepts through the medium of art can help further that journey by
captivating the mind as well as the senses.
2. Layer information and experience. There needs to be multiple interpretations
and ways to participate in the phenomena or site. Layering means balancing
aesthetics, modes of access or occupation, varying cognitive opportunities and
revealing relationships at different scales.
3. Leave moments for the unexpected. Often times it is what is out of context
that gamers the most attention. The unexpected is where things not normally
considered in the day to day can be the point of juncture to transformative
experiences where human selves become present and aware. (Neves, 2009,
Survey questions are based on the ERD rating indicators as well. Surveys
attempt to measure what affects or communicates to users the aesthetic and physical
experience in the landscapes. Results will be used to build upon the ERD language to
establish relationships between people and landscapes. Questions were written in
statement and inventory format. The format serves as a way to measure the degree to
which participants agree with the statement. Below each statement participants mark
from a list of possibilities, or write in indicators to inventory as to why they answered
the way they did. Given the diversity of possible approaches it is impossible to come
up with a universal measure that will capture every nuance of peoples opinions.
However, layers are added within the survey to hopefully engage those levels of
understanding and tastes. Regardless of preferences or knowledge there can be
something for everyone.
Administration of the surveys involved selecting four stations at each nature
center. The stations represent key design moments and expected points of contact
were the design attempts to create a visitor experience. Panoramic photos of each
station can be found in Appendix 3. Stations include a point of entry into the site.
This is where the sidewalk or trail system starts at the parking lots. It was chosen
because this is the visitors first impression of the site and of the experience to come.
Other stations included overlooks and designed moments around nodes. In the case
of Station 2 at the Pueblo Nature Center, participants surveyed the remnant pieces of
Richard Hansens ERD. At each station participants were asked to write what was
most memorable and distinctive about what they saw. Once the station surveys were
completed they were asked to complete an Overall survey to rate the nature center
landscape and experience as a whole.
After both sites had been visited, participants were asked which nature center
they would prefer to spend more time. The assumption behind this question is if
someone will spend more time at a place there is a higher probability they will glean
more information from it. Likewise, it is assumed those who invest more time at a
place will more likely be advocates for its protection and care. Whether this transfers
to other locations with similar landscape characteristics is beyond the scope of this
research but there is speculation it can.
Nine student/professionals, 16 Adults and 12 youth participated in the survey.
A Colorado Springs Boy Scout and Girl Scout troop along with some parents
completed the bulk of the surveys. Other adults came from a Pueblo Sierra Club list
serve. The student/professional group came from 3rd year landscape architecture
students at the University of Colorado at Denver. Out of the richness and diversity of
the stations and people, certain indicators begin to stand out. Was there a consensus
in preferences and experiential measures? Not to any statistical probability, but if
more surveys were administered that question could possibly be resolved. (Jorgensen,
2004) However, qualitatively, variations and commonalities in the data revealed an
ERD language. Results glean relative insights into what people notice or do not
notice. Comparing those insights to literature and design knowledge suggests
solutions for improving noticablility and, in turn, revelation of phenomena.
After processing the answers and tallying responses certain indicators became
common among the surveys. Figure 3.6 and 3.7 show the percentage of elements
noticed by category. The following pie graphs graphically show the results of the
percentage breakdown within indicator categories. Graphs and tables are mapped
responses to stations based on marked interest or lack of denotation of certain
elements. Since the sample size was small it can not be definitively said
concurrences are true trends. Yet they are congruent with theory and research
findings encountered in the literature.
Memorable and Distinctive Elements
Participants were asked to list the three most distinctive or memorable
elements in the landscape. The list of items varied among the stations and the overall
surveys. However, a few categorical responses remained as the most memorable or
distinctive. Figure 3.6 shows the percentage of responses that fell into each category
overall and Figure 3.7 breaks the categories down .by station and nature center.
Overall Elements: Memorable tally from both nature centers
shown in percent out of 200 responses
Figure 3.6 Overall
Noticed Clement*: Pro*e**tc*uJ Group
Mot iced Clement*; Adult Group
Noticed Clement* Youth Group
Image 6: Surveys asked
paitieipants to indieated
memorable and distinelivc
features. The majority of
responses fit into categories
considered the lowest
denominators of ones
everyday and not complex
or abstract phenomena.
of hidden or complex
phenomena appears to he
Noticed Views, structures
Figure 3.7 Noticed
Not Noticed Human uses
and system* at Fountain
Not Noticed Abstract
For the overall graph all the groups and both nature centers were added together
which added up to 200 tallies. The most memorable categories are water 23.5%,
vegetation, including trees and habitats, at 14.5%, and wildlife, either seeing or
sound, at 11.5%. For the station measures the categories that received votes as being
memorable or distinctive did not change drastically between each group or nature
center. The student/professionals and adults indicated more often the structures and
built forms with the student/professionals students having 29% at Fountain Creek
Nature Center and 22% at Pueblo Nature Center and for the adults it was 23% and
33% respectively. The leading category for youth ended up being water receiving
23% at Fountain Creek and 25% at Pueblo.
What these results allude to is the indicated elements all are surface layers. In
other words, they are elements that occur in the human perceptible realm. Very few
written responses related to abstract, unique concepts or hidden phenomena. Unless
abstract concepts like nutrient cycles are clearly visible, they are not usually taken
away as memorable or distinctive. Essentially these measures show interactions
between people and the landscape is happening at the lowest common denominator.
Charting responses to a set of question between the four stations at FCNC
revealed a trend. The questions asked if the site was interesting to look at and then
had the participants mark the degree in which the site had a high, medium or low
visual quality for the aesthetic markers of form, color and texture. A high mark
received 3 points, medium 2 and low only 1. At station three participants stood near
or on a bridge. The bridge was located between two wetland habitats and the bridge
crossed the creek that connected the wetlands. In this case the bridge is a design
moment in which visitors are presented with dynamic and animated phenomena.
5tation 3- Bridge and creek. Bisects two wetlands and has extended views
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Charting visual quality and character measures yielded higher ratings lor station 3 at FCNC. The bridge and creek moment
presented a dynamic and juxtaposed condition. Comparatively to other stations, it appears to have made a genuine impact on participants.
Figure 3.8 Station Comparisons.
Comparatively it consistently received the highest marks amongst all groups. Other
stations had more variation between the scores. (Fig. 3.8)
For station three, 90% of the student/professionals, 80% of the adults and 70%
of the youth gave it a High score for visual quality and character. Stations one (1)
and two (2) had distribution between all values. The other station receiving higher
marks was four(4). It too was an overlook at a pond. However, it didnt have the
same degree of access to the dynamic nature of water. These findings suggest
animated processes like what the creek produces is more interesting and engaging.
There was contrast between water, wetlands, riparian and grassland habitats as well as
long views to the nature center and mountains. Water movement also produced
several effects. For example, there was sound as water tumbled over rocks, a change
in the environment from evaporation and visual changes. All of these factors played
a role in why it scored higher in visual quality and character than other stations.
Sometimes looking at what is not indicated can illuminate. The inventory
accompanying the questions included representing literal to conceptual elements
found at the stations (Table 3.1). Terms also alluded to forms or language associated
to ERD, for example storm water was listed because it was a component of Pueblos
original design. Categorical finds are presented in the following table. The total
column lists the number of marks received out of a possible 296 chances it could have
been marked. Lower totals shed light on those forms and concepts in the landscape
that received little attention. It has already been established that surface elements
appropriated the majority of marks. Where the unveil lies within the table is where
the design might be lacking in fulfilling an educational or revealing intent.
Table 3.1. Missing the mark.
296 Possible Totals
Learning about Ecology/Culture FC PB
historic habitats 42 14
current habitats 106 36
Wildlife 142 48
predator prey 29 10
nutrient cycles 37 13
Succession 19 6
life cycles 36 12
water relationships 87 29
water cycles 62 21
Erosion 33 11
disturbance cycles 16 5
geologic formations 19 6
storm water 12 4
historic human settlement 31 10
historic human uses 41 14
current human systems 39 13
current human uses 55 19
Reclamation 21 7
human impacts on the land 38 13
Other 21 7
296 Possible Totals
Techniques for Learning FC PB
text/signs/graphics 148 50
path 167 56
opening views 128 43
overlook 104 35
art 25 8
structures 74 25
hardscapes 64 22
striking unique displays 26 9
dynamic displays 27 9
contrasting 82 28
uncovering 24 8
measuring devices 15 5
nodes 81 27
defining edges 70 24
landforming 60 20
unique placement 25 8
vegetation placement 57 19
artistic reclamation 15 5
natural event spectacle 62 21
observation points 139 47
readings 144 49
access land water 115 39
Activity features 102 34
art 7 2
classes 28 9
volunteering 29 10
stewardship activities 18 6
other 22 7
These numbers capture how many of the concepts and ideas are being
interpreted on some level by some participants. Additionally there are variations in
interpretation of what, say, an artistic reclamation is or looks like. Fountain Creek
appears to be successful in educating about current habitats and wildlife through
signs, text, graphics and path layout. More abstract concepts or hidden processes are
not readily revealed, for example the human influences or succession of habitats.
Much of the same can be said for Pueblo. Regarding the educational mission the
landscape in and of itself does not appear to be informing the majority of the
When the focus is narrowed to look at the original ERD at Pueblo related to
storm water and cottonwood ecology, it appears ERD is lacking in a language read by
the majority. Just looking at storm water as a learning moment about ecological
process it only collected 4 out of a possible 296 chances to be indicated. It is
reasonable to speculate this happened because the opening of human systems to
reveal storm water was such a discrete and minuscule part of the overall site. Another
possibility was explained during an interview with Richard Hansen, the designer of
the ERD. He believes the storm water component is overlooked or misinterpreted
due to a lack of integration into the infrastructure of the site. He also believes it has
been forgotten because it is not marked or designated in anyway. As a result, as
maintenance and administration changed hands over the years the lessons have been
forgotten. The fact the design has been altered drastically over the past ten years tells
how the original meaning of the design strategies did not communicate to those in
charge of its care. What the measures expose is Pueblo represents a case where the
language of ERD is too abstract resulting in a small minority being able to translate
Formation of ERD Language
What the research examines is some fiindamental concerns surrounding ERD
in order to develop a design language and process. One concern is ERDs lack in
ability to communicate to a population with limited design and ecological knowledge,
This is an important concern but may be more related to what the study exposes, that
people commonly experience only what occurs within their perceptible realm and do
not extrapolate hidden or complex phenomena. It has been shown in other studies
when people can not understand or decipher complex abstract information it is less
likely to contribute to their knowledge or misconceptions may be created. (Mueller &
Bentley, 2006; Kaplan & Kaplan, 1998) The findings conclude as well that legibility
of a design also depends on what the viewer brings to the experience. This idea is
also exampled in Rottles study on the Cedar River Watershed Education Center,
which collected data on how landscape medium is perceived. Responses varied based
on the reason or expertise of the visitors. The conclusion fits with the conclusion
from the present study in that there is a need for active interpretation to lead visitors
into a consciousness about the built space or educational intent. (Rottle, 2005)
Both nature centers rarely challenged the human perceptible realm to indicate
hidden processes or more complex ecological/cultural phenomena. Furthermore,
design strategies created a phenomenological experience which fell within the
spectrum of what Gobster (2008) terms as primary and secondary forms of
experience. These include walking and sightseeing among others. Primary and
secondary forms were readily indicated on the surveys. Often primary and secondary
forms of experience do not challenge the everyday to leave an impact on the visitor.
When a genuine impact is made it can lead to a greater sense of ownership or
stewardship. (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1998)
Pueblo and Fountain Creek did have moments that left an impact including the
bridge and creek station at Fountain Creek. Other trends in the data have opened
doors to the creation of an ERD language for design solutions to manifest from. The
following is the rudimentary beginnings to the creation of tertiary experiences by
adding cognitive, experiential and aesthetic layers to reveal things outside of the
everyday human realm.
1. Spectacle Event. This idea is supported by the data trend surrounding the
bridge and creek at station three (3) at Fountain Creek. The contrast between
habitats and the dynamic nature of water appear to culminate in a positive
genuine impact on the participants. A spectacle event is one that turns the
mundane into something striking or impressive. It can embody a natural or
cultural display that is dynamic, interactive or in opposition.
2. Changing the Human Perceptible Realm. Everyday nature seems to be
encompassed in the lowest denominator of elements, vegetation, water,
structures etc. The key is opening up views into processes and relationships
normally hidden. It enhances knowledge while changing the normative.
Varying scales of phenomena not normally engaged by humans can uncover
hidden worlds or open up intellectual secrets.
3. Cognitive Layers. Interpretation does not happen without the first layers of
active interpretation. The first layer is often text which starts visitors on the
journey. The data shows tertiary layers are missing in the designs. These
layers start to be more abstract or engage multiple senses. This is often done
through an artistic intervention. Art is a lacking component at both nature
centers. Incorporating art can bring about a consciousness to elements taking
the relationship with the landscape beyond a primary one.
4. Access Exploration and Participation. Access to land or water for free
exploration is an important concept to entice users to participate in the site.
Commonly, access takes the form of a path; therefore it becomes moment and
experience. A path connects and leads. Access can also mean participating in
an event or connecting to phenomena in an unusual way.
Over the course of the literature review and data generation, a model, process
and language have been developed to address ecological and cultural complexities. It
has also furthered a design language for the application of landscape medium to
educate and reveal about those complexities. How the above language manifests into
a concrete form or moment will unfold as the ERD process is used. The ERD ratings
analyzed how designs create ecologically revealing moments and then placed
strategies as more successful than others at meeting the design goals such as those
proposed for the EFEP. Surveys looked into how interventions might sustain patterns
and practices to establish long term relationships between landscape and reader.
At the core it can be stated, any landscape can be ecologically revealing.
However, to generate awareness across a population with limited design or ecological
knowledge ERD must attain a certain level of presentation. First, a landscape should
have degrees of legibility about the phenomena being revealed. Legibility includes
literal interpretations to abstract ones. Signage is an important first layer in the active
interpretation serving as a launching pad to start the user on a journey of discovery.
The second levels of presentation support multiple interpretations and ways to
participate in the phenomena or site. Layering means balancing aesthetics, modes of
access or occupation, varying cognitive opportunities and revealing relationships at
different scales. Lastly, a successful ERD will leave moments for the unexpected.
Often times it is what is out of context that gamers the most attention. The
unexpected is where things not normally considered in the day to day can be the point
of juncture to transformative experiences where human selves become present and
aware. (Neves, 2009, Cooper, 2003)
Data has supported the selection of four strategies that can aid in producing a
genuine impact on the audience. One is changing the human perceptible realm in
ways that open views into what is normally hidden or not considered. Another is
creating a spectacle event by making something striking or impressive. A spectacle
event can embody a natural or cultural display that is dynamic, interactive or in
opposition. Cognitive layers are also an important agent in ERD. Through additive
layers cognitive experiences go from simple to complex and can engage multiple
senses. By balancing the spectrum of complexity messages can be deciphered, yet
are not so simple they are easily interpreted and become mundane. Lastly is using
strategies to encourage access and participation with the site or phenomena. One way
this can be realized is by including moments that open up land or water to free
These simple principles serve as a guide to manifest design interventions
during the next stage of the thesis. What materializes from the process and language
are interpretations of how ERD might be applied to resolve, reveal and educate users
about a set of complex ecological and cultural issues affecting the lower Fountain
Creek corridor between Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the Arkansas River
confluence in Pueblo, Colorado. Within this model and associated language many
design solutions could evolve. What actualize are forms better suited to reveal a
cultural/ecological narrative to educate those with limited design and ecological
knowledge about their role in environmental systems.
ECO-FIT TO ECOREVELATORY -
AN EXAMPLE OF ERD ON FOUNTAIN CREEK
Like Stienitzs model for learning ecological design, the ERD process would
feed back on itself and could go into great detail as discoveries are made and
evaluated. With that aside, it is not the intent here to be all inclusive or reiterate it
over and over to a finite detail. This section is an exercise similar to design
development. It will provide an example of how the ERD model could manifest
design solutions befitting of the context associated with the EcoFit Education Park
(EFEP). The example will also inspire conversation about how design interventions
at the EFEP can start to resolve, reveal and educate about related systems and
It was previously established, the EFEP is a concept being proposed to
educate, inspire and focus users to learn about their culture, history and environment.
The City of Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs Utilities, Fountain Creek Foundation
and other partners are intending to make the park a case study on how the ecology of
Fountain Creek can be improved through innovative design techniques. The design
must also be able to educate people with limited design or ecological knowledge
about the human role in the changes that have occurred to the Fountain Creek ecology
and how those relationships can be improved. So, the first step for an ERD is to
establish what the ecological and cultural relationships are and how they have shaped
the environment over time. The next step is to reveal the story in a way that changes
thinking and stewardship on the Fountain Creek corridor.
Table 4.1 is a summary of the ecological and cultural conditions that have
shaped the landscape. What follows is an evaluation of the ecological/cultural
narrative. It starts with a historic perspective on the functions and operations of the
Fountain Creek corridor. Prior to European settlement the two narratives could be
separated, but Fountain Creek ecology is no longer isolated from human influence.
The story will move from a pre-European situation through modem times where the
ecological and cultural narrative is intertwined.
Table 4.1. Narrative components.
cotton wood/wi I low
Wide flood plain
Higher water table
More exotics &
Lower water table
Need for water
recharge Collect & Move Flooding Regulation/engineering
Loss of life
Habitat Habitat & property Restoration
Fire & flooding Densification pollution Education
Cleansing, reservoir Transport Fear Engineering
Dissipation Concentration Development Regulation
Regeneration Impervious surfaces
Ecological and Cultural Narrative
Historically, Fountain Creek was an ephemeral creek. The water flowed
intermittently during the year but snow melt and thunderstorms fluctuated the water
volume. Annual floods would scour the decomposed granite soils. Cyclical floods
prepared the soils for the riparian plant species. Plants, like cottonwood (Populus
deltoids) and willow (Salix spp.) depended on floods to distribute seed and debris to
regenerate. Fire was an important disturbance cycle to the region as well. Beyond
the riparian terraces lay short grass prairies. Fire kept gambel oak (Quercus gambelii)
and other desert scrub species at bay.
Most of the area within the corridor is arid. Occasionally, pockets containing
springs and wetlands dotted the area. Water for wildlife was found in these
catchments and spring fed holes. What wetlands existed functioned as points of
dissipation and filtration. As floods raged down the creek, wetlands diverted the
energy and water outward. Sediments carried in the waters could settle and
rejuvenate the soils. Riparian and wetland zones also slowed water enough for it to
infiltrate and recharge ground water. Natural processes such as fire and flood were
integrated into the life cycles of area plants and animals. However, as Europeans
moved into the area those cycles started to be forever altered.
William Henry Jackson is well known for his historic photos taken around
Colorado before the turn of the century. A contemporary photographer, John Fielder,
followed Jacksons foot prints and retook pictures Jackson did over one hundred
years ago. The photo comparison reveals the changes that have occurred to the
Colorado Springs area after European settlement (Figure 4.1). With the settlement
came changes in the way the land was managed. The landscape was no longer under
the rules of nature alone but also the rules and desires of man.
Austin Bluffs. Courtesy, History Colorado William Henry Jackson Collection #
20101525 and Fielder 2005
Garden of the Gods. Courtesy, History Colorado William Henry Jackson Collection
# 20102393 and Fielder 2005
Figure 4.1. Before and After.
With settlement came many practices and fears that coproduced the current
landscape. Practices grounded in ranching, agriculture, mining and city development
are how culture actively shaped the environment. Fears of natures wrath in the form
of flooding and fire resulted in major
changes to how humans related and
manipulated the landscape. Perhaps the
fear of floods damaging urban
development is the most influential factor
related to the Fountain Creek narrative.
Now, the lower Fountain Creek
corridor is not just about the lower
reaches. It is about the culmination of an
entire watershed. Fountain Creek
Watershed (FCWS) is bounded by the
Pikes Peak/ Rampart Range to the west,
Monument Hill and Palmer Divide to the
north, Chico Basin on the east and drains
into the Arkansas River at its southern
border (Figure 4.2). It is approximately
930 square miles with rural, urban and
suburban populations. Settlement
originated here because there was water.
Currently, the population is burgeoning at
about 600,000 people with Colorado
Springs hosting the majority. (Fountain Creek Watershed Plan, 2003)
Through the history of the city it can hardly be decided if Fountain Creek is
believed to be an amenity or a liability. (Colorado Springs Planning Department,
1969) One example is in a letter by William Jackson Palmer (1901). He envisioned a
Figure 4.2. Fountain Creek Watershed.
park next to one of Fountain Creeks tributaries. He stated, it would be a place when
undisturbed, shrubbery and wild flowers grow naturally in the creek bottoms without
irrigation making it easier to carry out the purpose of affording an open space
removed from the dust and noise of the streets and roads. (Finley, 2001) Water was
either scarce or in over-abundance. By 1901 water issues were already being
addressed by water committees and city engineers. When water was scarce it
inhibited cultural activities. As Edwin A. Sawyer (1901) said, the only thing in the
way of the growth of the city was a lack of water. When the river was overflowing it
was dangerous. (Finley, 2001)
The creek struck as a liability when spring run off came. Flood events took
life and property. For example on May 30, 1935, a flood took the lives of four
people, damaged 300 to 400 houses and destroyed bridges and railroad tracks. More
recently in 1999, a flood concluded in $40 million dollars in damage and the loss of
two lives. Additionally, lawsuits were filed against the City of Colorado Springs for
property losses and violations of the Clean Water Act. (Swanson, 2008; Zubeck 2008)
With each event fears of the next flood drove change. What ensued was new
regulation and engineered solutions.
Engineering, regulation and impervious surfaces have all contributed to the
changes in Fountain Creeks hydrology and ecology. Regulation includes requiring
construction to be outside of the floodplain to meet water quality standards.
Engineering solutions often translate into treating run off like a plumbing problem.
This was not a unique occurrence to Fountain Creek. Since the 1930s city engineers
all over the country have used culverts, channelized and riprapped rivers with the
intent to get the water through the city and downstream fast enough to avoid flooding.
How cities were planned and developed has multiplied urban impacts with the by-
product being severe erosion, flooding and pollution issues. (Riley, 1998) For
example, impervious surfaces in the FCWS have increased dramatically over the
latter half of this century. A recent report by the Pikes Peak Area Council of
Government predicts in the future increases in impervious surfaces will result in
increased flooding, loss of riparian habitat and will interfere with groundwater
recharge. Figures (4.3) and (4.4) show the current and predicted changes to
Over the decade impervious surfaces, erosion, pollution and flooding have
only increased bringing to light the importance of dealing with surface water more
comprehensively. For example Colorado Springs Utilities has spent approximately
$100 million in recent years to shore up pipes crossing creeks and on other
preventative improvements. (Zubeck, 2008) Unfortunately, it hasnt been enough.
Fountain Creek is still plagued with hydrology and pollution related issues. The
problem is the watershed is no longer in a natural or historic state. Erosion,
sedimentation and flooding are important natural processes but are happening at
unprecedented rates. Aside from the formerly mentioned urban pressures, transbasin
water delivery has increased water flow in Fountain Creek from an average of 60
cubic feet per second (cfs) to 230 cfs playing a major role in hydrologic changes.
Water ways have down cut to bed rock and disconnected riparian zones eliminating
valuable ecological services. As a consequence, planning, engineering and
environmental advocates are working on the urban context as well as adopting
policies and strategies to protect waterways and educate citizens.
Figure 4.4. Future Impervious Surfaces
Figure 4.5. Ecological Narrative.
Figure 4.6. Cultural Narrative.
As of May 2010, THK Associates, a local design firm, has not moved
the master plan of the EFEP to a detailed phase. At this point in juncture, the ERD
process and language is used to redevelop the master plan. The design scenario will
include degrees of legibility about the phenomena being revealed, layering
information and experience for multiple interpretations, and will offer ways to
participate in the phenomena or site, and leave moments for the unexpected. The sub-
context to the framework includes finding ways to change the human perceptible
realm, open views into what is normally hidden or not considered, create a spectacle
event by making something striking, add simple to complex cognitive layers, engage
multiple senses and lastly, open up access to the site and phenomena. The resulting
form is to tell a narrative about the systems and relationships dealing with flooding
and the valuable ecological services of wetland and riparian zones. Included in the
story is how those services have been lost but can be reinvented. What arises through
the design process is one out of many possibilities for engaging users and heightening
awareness of ones milieu. It is the hope the ecorevelatory nature of the design will
advance the conversation about whether design can reinvent cultural perceptions and
legibly reveal relationships between people and the landscape.
The site plan is configured to take advantage of flood diversion and wetland
technologies. (Figure 4.7) At the northeast comer of the site is a diversion channel to
capture peak flows from Fountain Creek. The sequence of the water diversion
includes a settlement pond, river channel for aeration, working riparian zone,
overflow drainage, wetland filtration and outlet back to Fountain Creek at the
southeastern comer. Ecological services are provided at several stages. The
diversion helps dissipate water energy from the main Fountain Creek channel.
Settlement ponds slow water so that large debris drops out of solution. The river
channel has large boulders to chum water and aerate it. Riparian vegetation also
serves as a mechanism to dissipate energy and filter out more sediment. A high flow
diversion helps protect the established wetlands from larger flood events. Wetland
services include filtration as well as creating wildlife habitat. It is important to
engage users in an experience that reveals this system as a cultural one and not as a
native or historic state. Therefore, it follows a gradation of highly designed features
to features perceived as more natural. Ecorevelatory layers are incorporated to create
educational and participatory moments.
Schematic Plan: Showing the relationship* between stormwater ponds and
Ecorevelatory strategies. The base rs an extension from the TMK. master plan
for the EcoFit Education Park.
Riparian Zone -
/ ..<5 it
Figure 4.7. ERD Master Plan. Using the ecorevelatory process and framework
to reconfigure the ecological services. These services are overlaid with design
moments to engage users in site and cultural phenomena.
Spectacle Event (A)
A spectacle event is one that is striking and memorable. An example of that is
the FCNC bridge and creek station. The station represented a spectacle event related
to dynamic and temporal changes of water as well as contrast between wetland and
dry upland habitats. There are many ways to make something striking and dynamic.
For the EFEP example, opportunity to create a spectacle occurs at the point water is
diverted from Fountain Creek into the park system. Controlled flooding brings water
into the system through a channel that has materiality, texture and visual structure. It
is meant to be a water plaza instead of a standard engineered concrete ditch. That
way, even when it is dry it has a level of presentation. Active interpretation includes
signage about flooding, changes in Fountain Creeks flows and why water is being
Figure 4.8. Spectacle Event Wet and Dry
Changing the Human Perceptible Realm (B,C,D)
Changing what humans perceive in the day to day, means opening up views
normally hidden or even revealing intellectual secrets. The windows in Figures 4.9-
4.11 reveal the engineered systems in addition to the processes of rivers, riparian
zones and wetlands. Each moment places the visitor at a vantage point that is lower
than normal. Normally humans read the landscape from their height, but the window
moments bring them down to see the world from a worms eye view.
The river window shows users the substrate of the riverbed and has the initial
interpretation of how rocks and debris aerate the water. Next is the riparian window.
This window and surrounding vegetation challenge thinking about natural versus
engineered systems. Design of this moment juxtaposes the natural vegetation to a
rigid orthogonal layout. This technique allows the space to operate like a riparian
zone while allowing the audience to see it is not void of human influence.
Interpretive signs tell the users how riparian zones function in controlling floodwaters
and filtering sediments. Lastly, the wetland window brings people down to
experience a wetland from an unlikely view. Most often wetlands are viewed from a
platform or boardwalk. Here, there is a view of the engineering that goes into making
a functional wetland. Through the window one views vegetation, substrate, and other
ecosystem features. Interpretation includes information on constructing a working
wetland and the important ecological services it provides for filtering water.
Access Exploration and Participation
Access opens up experiences for participation with the site or phenomena. A
path offers moments as well as procession through the layers of information and
experiences. Access includes exploration of cognitive moments in addition to
participatory events. The first access point is a boulder crossing. It creates a
spectacle moment for exploration by allowing access to water. This moment is
similar to the kind created by the bridge crossing at FCNC. However, the boulder
crossing offers a physical challenge plus opens up an entry point to the water.
The second moment (F) is using abstraction to engage curiosity about
hidden engineered systems. What one might notice first is the path is stabilized using
old drainage pipes. An initial layer of interpretation tells of the buried overflow
drainage and how it protects the engineered wetlands from destructive flooding
events. The artistic layering of information through texture and material is what
elevates users from primary and secondary levels of experience to generate tertiary
levels of participation with the site. (Figures 4.12 and 4.13)
Figure 4.12. (E) Boulder
Figure 4.13. (F)
The implication of the research contributes to the conversation within several
paradigms of landscape architecture. One is determining if ERD or other landscapes
can culminate in a distinct educational experience for those with limited design or
ecological knowledge. Currently, there are gaps in the research to determine if such
landscapes add to societys ecological knowledge, foster sensitivity to ecological
services or change cultural opinion and behaviors. It is the challenge of the design to
speak to a general public as well as to those with skills more adept at reading
information from landscape medium. To do so a design must create tertiary levels of
form and experience to elevate educational experiences. As of now most places
designed to educate about the environment, depend on program as the vehicle to
educate. A design framework, like what was presented here, is a way to materialize
landscape into a presentation that succeeds in the way programs do now. How is this
done when so much of landscape information is not generally legible?
First and foremost a designer must understand how landscapes transfer
information depends on what knowledge the user possesses to read the information.
This translates into the fact landscapes are commonly read at the lowest common
denominators. It must also be considered that primary and secondary forms of
experience are limited in their capacity to culminate in a genuine impact. When
content and expression do not challenge cultural expectation they are easily
categorized as everyday. The surveys and other research support the finding that
people frequently experience what occurs within their perceptible realm and do not
extrapolate hidden or complex phenomena. As a result, any designs intending to
educate users about enigmatic concepts through landscape medium need a
presentation that electrifies consciousness or it will fail to communicate a message.
Adding tertiary cognitive and experiential layers improves the overall affect of
a design. Unfortunately, sites oriented towards ecological education depend on
educational programs to create tertiary levels of experience for enhancing a visitors
knowledge. These include guided tours, classes or volunteer opportunities. The
problem is many programs are being cut as budgets become tighter, leaving the
design to fill in the gap. Creating a spectacle event, changing the perceptible realm
and opening up access are strategies to engage users in a myriad of phenomena,
informing human knowledge of non-human systems. The layering of information
through interpretation and art opens up the landscape and helps users gain skills to
read its secrets. Artistic interpretations are a way to make a splash and change public
perspective. (North, 2005) Art helps give an identity to a place and awaken the
senses by creating an evocative aesthetic and multi-sensory experience. Art, whether
visual or sensorial, can be the unexpected where an audience becomes present in the
moment. In that same thread, as Meyer believes, according to her manifesto, an
immersive aesthetic experience can lead to recognition, empathy, love, respect and
care for the environment. Without memorable or distinctive features, landscapes are
forgettable and fall short in offering unique educational opportunities.
A case in point is the original ERD at Pueblo where only four of thirty seven
participants noticed the storm water design. It is a challenge for landscape
architecture to develop effective strategies to capture an audiences attention while
revealing phenomena with landscape medium. At Pueblo the spatial language for
storm water was not well matched to the context, scale and message to maximize a
revelatory response. The solution is placing culturally appropriate triggers in the
landscape for people to understand there is information to read or experience there.
Another important discussion generated from the study is the use of
traditional picturesque and restoration practices versus practices like ERD to create
relationships between people and landscapes. The debate is whether traditional
practices are a disservice to formulating public opinions about what is natural. For
example, FCNC reinforces the idea that man is observer and separate from the
ecological processes. Although the site is heavily managed, the maintenance and care
is virtually hidden from the public. As it stands now, picturesque and restoration
principles are foundations of the Fountain Creek Corridor Restoration Master Plan.
The question is, are culturally excepted practices really informing a general public
about ecology or their role in the changes? Picturesque canons put users as viewer or
observer and treat landscapes as an aesthetic commodity to be framed and
appreciated. Restoration practices often intend to repair anthropogenic environmental
damage to a historic state. In essence it is erasing the human mark on the land and
adopting a nature over culture philosophy. How are people supposed to read
landscapes, appreciate the past or comprehend the human role in environmental
changes if they believe what they see is devoid of human influence?
The dilemma is over whether a traditional model, or a model like ERD, is
better at fostering stewardship. Are there added benefits to engaging users in a
dialogue about hidden phenomena or ecological and cultural narratives? Will a
model that reveals the human hand be culturally accepted? I question if it will.
When participants were asked in the survey which nature center they would prefer to
spend more time at, more responded Fountain Creek Nature Center. The reason was,
it was more natural or lacked human evidence. Maybe it is because the human
species really does not want to know how much we have changed or manipulated the
environment. It is easier to live in ignorance of irreversible damage or believe we can
repair systems to a pre-European condition.
It is the mission of many to foster cultural awareness to natures processes, in
the hopes it will change behaviors that will carry over into other interactions with the
environment. The expectation of ERD is it can open up intellectual secrets within the
landscape in such a manner they translate into further appreciation and protection of
sensitive environments. If that is the case, designs cannot make grandiose claims
about revitalizing ecologies, revealing natural and cultural processes and
communicating to users. The resulting ERD process and scaffolding refocuses vague
attempts at fostering awareness to make places that have greater presentation to
participants. It encourages ERD to commit to ecological function and to manifest
distinctive intelligible forms in each arena. The likely conclusion to these landscapes
is the development of a constituency that understands its role in environmental
problems as well as its role in the solutions.
Nature Center: Fountain Creek Pueblo
Station #: 1 2 3 4
Group (circle one): Youth Adult (NP) Professional
1. It looks like someone designed the space.
Yes No EH Somewhat
2. The landscape is attractive.
Because......(Check all that apply)
Wild- no evidence of
EH There is seasonal
EH It fits in with its
EH It flows from place to
EH It does not fit in with
EH Natural creations are
the major design
EH Man-made features
are the major design
3. The area looks like it is a local native Colorado environment
EH Yes EH No EH Somewhat
The site contains the following...(Check all that apply)
EH Native vegetation EH Exotic (Introduced) vegetation
EH Native wildlife EH Designed landforms
Noxious weeds EH Natural/Un-altered landforms
EH Introduced wildlife EH Other________________________
Man-made creations and the natural environment compliment each other.
Because...... (Check all that apply)
EH Structures look natural.
EH High density of built elements.
EH Low density of built elements.
EH Colors of material.
EH Buildings/structures contrast.
EH Built elements are made with local natural
EH Built elements are made with non-native
EH Low profile buildings or structures.
5. There is a focal point, a center of activity or attention.
Yes No EH Somewhat
Indicate the focal point(s).
EH Natural vegetation ie tree or grove of EH Built form ie wall, bench, bridge
EH Vegetation intentional placement. EH View
EH Water feature EH Habitat
EH Art-graphic, sculpture, mural EH Garden
EH Building EH Other
6. The site is interesting to look at.
Yes No Somewhat
Rate the following characteristics on quality.
Visual Character Quality Low Medium
Form (identifiable figures, objects Q | |
patterns or shapes)
Color (variety of colors and values- Low Medium
lights and darks- through the Q | |
Texture (identifiable textures of rough, Q | |
smooth, soft, hard, patterns,
7. The area landforms, vegetation patterns, natural features and man-made elements combine
to provide an unusual, unique or outstanding scenic quality.
5 = the area has distinctive scenic qualities.
3 = the area has typical, ordinary or common scenic qualities.
1 = the area is indistinctive and has low scenic quality.
8. The design uses techniques to inform users about the theme and mission of the nature center.
EH Yes EH No EH Somewhat
The design uses the following techniques. (Check all that apply)
Text EH Art-abstract. Structures
Signs EH Pictures Water feature
Paths EH Mixed Media Kiosks
Tags EH Sculpture Vegetation
Engravings EH Landform manipulation pattern or placement.
9. Users are informed about plant, animal and environmental relationships.
EH Yes EH No EH Somewhat
If yes, the following are shown or told about..(Check all that apply)
EH Historic habitats EH Relationships to water
EH Current habitats EH Water cycles/flows
EH Wildlife EH Erosion process
EH Predator/prey relationships EH Disturbance cycles
EH Nutrient cycles EH Geologic formations
EH Succession of habitats/vegetation EH Storm water drainage
EH Life cycles of plants/animals EH Other