AN EXPLORATION INTO THE POTENTIAL OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE
AS A PROCESS WITH MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES
Michael Fortunato Perkins
BFA Savannah Collage of Art and Design 2001
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of
Masters of Landscape Architecture
Department of Architecture and Planning
This thesis for the Masters degree by
Michael Fortunato Perkins
has been approved by
Joern Langhors) (Chair)
Date Ol'-TM- 'Zoo
Perkins, Michael Fortunato (MLA, Department of Architecture and Planning)
An exploration into the potential of Landscape Architecture
as a process with multiple perspectives.
Thesis directed by Assistant Professor Joern Langhorst
Our environments the ecological and physical places we find ourselves
manipulating are complex by their very nature, and therefore inherently
multidimensional. Hence, these places should be conceived as such in order to both
preserve their richness and accommodate evolving needs and uses. In this paper, I
am developing and testing a methodology to allow Landscape Architects to conceive
of and design places by considering multiple perspectives simultaneously, thus
addressing the complexity of a given environment and allowing it to unfold along
Common perspectives found in various design imperatives used through a
design process, have been distilled down to eight lenses: economic, environmental,
technical, social, political, energetic, aesthetic, and unknowable. These lenses
inform strategies for each perspective as layers on the landscape. Because landscape
architects tend to deal with environments primarily by manipulating elements
which create form, a hierarchy of layers results. It seems that even when multiple
perspectives are considered, and the intention is to use a non hierarchical system, a
hierarchy of some sort, in this case a poly-oriented hierarchy, may emerge.
This method being investigated is primarily a strategy by which one can
understand and test a given condition. As the word "unknowable" suggests
one cannot truly know. The simultaneity of seven evolving systems creates rich
complexity. Ultimately the design is open to interpretation as expectations evolve.
This abstract accurately represents th^cdnten^Hh^cmvJidgte^^hesis.
recommend its publication. Signed
\) Joern Langhorst
I would like to thank the selection committee at the University of Colorado at
Denver for the Brandes Scholarship I received which helped greatly as I worked on
this project. I would also like to thank Joern Langheorst, my thesis chair, for all of his
insights along the way, but mostly for his patience as I compleated this process.
It is important to recognise Ann Komara, Tony Mazzeo and Leila Lolderlund for
there insights, inspirations and support. Thank you.
Most of all I must thank my sister, Kristen Perkins, who's ongoing emotional and
technical support made the completion of this work possible.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
4. Horizontally of the Landscape.............................................20
5. Civic Center Park (CCP) ..................................................22
7. Criticism of the Process...................................................55
9. List of Works Cited.......................................................62
LIST OF FIGURES
1: Discrete understanding.....................................................7
2: Synthetic understanding....................................................7
3: Arial image of Denver.....................................................23
4: Civic Center Park.........................................................24
5: Denver, Colorado, Capital Building........................................25
6: View from CCP north to Downtown...........................................25
7: View west from the steps of the Capital Building..........................27
8: Economic Zone.............................................................28
10: Access Zone: area near CCP that is designed for pedestrian use...........32
11: Crosswalk zones..........................................................33
12: Crosswalk access to CCP..................................................34
13: Zones of permiable surfice and increased non-human oriented habitat......36
14: Environmental Zones: permiable surfice and increased non-human exclusive
16: Political Zone: local power centers......................................39
17: Political Zones: areas near power centers that act as a forum for confronting,
expressing, and articulating perspectives....................................40
18: Anti-war rally...........................................................41
19: Social Zone: areas near the park that were designed as opportunities for inter-
20: Social Zones: areas that are used as opportunities for interaction.......43
21: Vagrents using the park as a place to relax..............................44
22: Energetic Zone: area around the park that provide opportunities for reference
23: Energetic Zones: Some features on and around the park that demonstrate op-
portunities for reference....................................................46
24: Scalar relationship of human-park-city, or temporally as human-city-planet ...47
25: Aesthetic Zone: Area of local aesthetic influence........................48
26: Aeshetic Zones, opportunities for aesthetic "glue".......................49
27: View if CCP from Capital building, facing west...........................50
Meaning, as a broad concept, is relative to a given context, ("meaning").
Without contextual information, meaning cannot be found. As human beings, we
are constantly in the process of screening information received by our senses, and
filtered by our brains to create a picture of what we
perceive as reality in design processes. Site analysis
is a method commonly used in an effort to gain an
understanding of an existing condition, by which
often complex information is broken up into smaller,
more readily understood discrete pieces. Our
relational understanding of a given object or event
is organized hierarchically through multiple levels figure 1: Discrete understanding
of information networks, (Hannaford 26). In the
process of analysis new information is assimilated
into pre-existing accumulated networks, facilitating
a deeper understanding. Because of the "slicing"
that takes place during analysis and our tendency to
relate new information to clusters of old information,
figure 2: Synthetic understanding
a "splicing" of those analyzed chunks of information
often never occurs. If the individual discrete pieces of information could separately
describe the nature of the larger condition they represent together, this would not
be problematic. As it is, these pieces need to be spliced back together so that an
understanding of how they interrelate and work together can unfold. This begins to
speak of a systems understanding. A systems understanding, or looking at the entire
system as a single entity, assumes that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
"Rather than reducing an entity to the properties of its parts or
elements, systems theory focuses on the arrangement of and relations
between the parts which connect them into a whole (cf. holism). This
particular organization determines a system, which is independent of
the concrete substance of the elements," (Heylighen and Joslyn).
Key to this kind of comprehension is multiple levels and scales of
understanding, for one system is actually a small part of a system of systems. Arthur
Koestler coined the term "holon" to refer to that which, being a whole in one context,
is a part of a wider whole in another. (Wilber 50). This is true for the neurons, and
neural pathways found throughout our bodies, as well as the ecological, cultural,
social, and economic systems of our planet. With analytical, hierarchical information
processing being the norm, and resulting in an incomplete understanding, an
integrated, holistic process needs to be used to balance our biases as humans, and
allow for a more complete understanding of the systems we are part of and attempt
to manipulate. This will allow for greater contextual understanding, which is a kind
of comprehension that includes a subject within its system, and thus the possibility
for deeper meaning to be extracted from the result of this process. The design
becomes more open to interpretation as our understanding increases.
Appropriately complex systems evolve through emergence. Like systems
theory, complexity theory is concerned with the relationship between components in
a system, but focuses on the ability of these components or a group of these systems
to evolve, (Taylor 14). Complexity theory places this potential, or what is called the
moment of complexity, on a continuum that is framed by chaos, or disorder on one
side, and order at the other end of the continuum. The moment of complexity falls
between too little and too much structure, so that self-organizing systems emerge
to create new structural organizations for these immerging systems, (Taylor 24). As
stated by David Depew and Bruce Wever, authors of Darwinism Evolving: Systems
Dynamic and the Genealogy of Natural Selection (437), "Complex systems are
systems that have a large number of components that can interact simultaneously in
a sufficiently rich number of parallel ways, so that the system shows spontaneous
self organization, and produces global, emergent, structures," (qtd. in Taylor 142).
Because of the vast amount of information contained in complex systems, or
systems of systems, it becomes impossible to accurately predict the outcome of the
combination of these parallel systems. This unpredictability is found commonly, and
is commonly ignored. In the "real world" there are no laws like Newtonian physics,
which determine linear outcomes, (Taylor 24). This introduces chaos theory, which
is similar to complexity theory but is more of an acknowledgment of the non-linear
nature of the world we find ourselves with in. Nonlinear, in this case, refers to the
tendency of an effect to be disproportionate to its components, "unpredictability
therefore is unavoidable," (Taylor 24). A result, therefore, can be disproportionately
larger than the total of its apparent benefactors.
Our tendency as humans is to organize information hierarchically. We make
our choices based on priorities derived from these hierarchies. This tendency to think
hierarchically can be seen in built environments throughout the world. Commonly
in the US, this hierarchy has an economic priority. In Denver, Colorado, there
was recently a redevelopment of Skyline Park. The urban park was redeveloped
with a clear focus on increasing the perceived safety of users. In this case, safety
indirectly affected the economic potential of the site by making it seem more secure
for business activities. Located in the heart of downtown Denver, Skyline Park is
situated perpendicularly to the area's major key pedestrian corridor, 16th Street
Mall, and other major thoroughfares of the city. The original design fell into neglect
and was considered to be a blight by many local business owners and residents.
In addition to the site descending into disrepair, it became a popular location for
marginalized youth and vagrants. Today, Skyline Park has been gentrified; the
dynamics of the park were changed by the influx of new money; primarily to change
the physical characteristics of the park itself. As a result, an improved park increases
the potential value of surrounding areas, (Paglia).
The redesign of Skyline Park is flexible; however, it is primarily used during
programmed events. The change further marginalized the pre-existing contingent of
users. Essentially, those who claimed the space prior to the renovation were driven
out in favor of individuals who 'fit' in its new condition. The design, driven by safety
concerns to ally more affluent constituents, failed to conceive of the site as a rich
complex environment where diverse social groups can co-mingle. This begins to
illustrate how changing something within an environment or system has cascading
Skyline Park provides an example for outlining the various levels of
effects found in a complex system with a hierarchical perspective, as some of its
primary goals, and direct and indirect effects have been discussed. Because we find
ourselves within complex systems when we are designing, there are foreseeable
and unforeseeable ramifications of those changes. The redesign of Skyline Park for
safety concerns can be seen as a primary goal. A direct effect of the increased safety
is the increased economic potential of the park and its surrounding areas. An indirect
effect of the primary goal is the displacement of the preexisting user groups. When
working with a system where any one change can cause other changes of various
space and time, and a human overlaid hierarchy has been used, foreseeable and
unforeseeable direct and indirect effects are inherent.
There is a trend that considers the potential of a place with this
understanding in mind. The idea of place references the condition that emerges
from the relationship between people, ecology, politics, and environments, among
other relationships. Landscape architecture is about manipulating process for the
emergence of place. In his book, A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History, Manuel De
Landa, referenced place as a "complex mixture of geological, biological, social, and
linguistic constructions that are nothing but accumulations of materials shaped and
hardened by history," (25). He has defined place as a complex condition situated
in time and certainly more than just a location. Tony Mazzeo, Senior Instructor in
Landscape Architecture at the University of Colorado at Denver, further emphasizes
this point in his lecture "Landscape as Place" when he states that "place refers
to a thickened field of relationships that accommodate, sustain, and propagate
humanity...As place, landscape is the active linking together of a wide variety
of heterogeneous elements, physical, biological, and social, precisely articulated
through a range of functional, synergistic 'meshworks' (De Linda qtd. in Mazzeo
"Landscape as Place") ".
With this broader understanding of place, an enhanced potential for meaning
and interpretation can allow for more diverse claims and uses. Roger Ulrich, a
professor and the Director of the Center for Health Systems and Design at Texas A &
M University, has conducted research displaying the therapeutic benefits of gardens.
He found that "viewing natural scenes or elements fosters stress recovery by evoking
positive feelings, reducing negative emotions, effectively holding attention/interest,
and blocking or reducing stressful thoughts," (qtd. in Furgeson). Patients who view
vegetation exhibit lower alpha rates, which are commonly associated with a state
of wakeful relaxation, than compared to their counterparts viewing urban scenes.
Ulrich's research on surgical patients who view natural scenes have "shorter post-
operative stays, fewer negative comments from nurses, take less pain medication
and experience fewer minor post-operative complications," compared to patients
who view a brick wall, (qtd. in Furgeson). If aesthetic and energetic criteria were
not included in the decision making process, an economic priority would probably
dictate very different results. In this context, the energetic criterium is referencing
opportunities for ritual, communal experience, and a potential for recognition
of how one fits into the universe. More potential emerges by examining design
problems through various lenses. In this case, looking through multiple lenses
results in the direct effect of gardens viewable by patients. The indirect effects of
garden viewing result in shorter stays, which equates to less medical cost for the
patients, higher turnaround for the facility, and a decreased overhead.
By examining situations such as in Ulrich's research, one can deduct that
there are a variety of lenses that dictate hierarchies of understanding, and thus
the perspectives by which a place is created, making it multidimensional, i.e. to
included various parallel facets or aspects. When a place is considered with multiple
perspectives it is perceived as more complex and is allowed to unfold along various
The multidimensional approach being explored here is based on eight
different components that, when considered together with equal weight, represent
a round, balanced, and diverse whole and should be included in every design
process. These lenses are economic, political, social, technical, environmental,
aesthetic, energetic, and unknowable. They represent categories under which
various perspectives can be organized. For example, in the redesign of Skyline Park,
safety was a driving force. This priority has been considered in the research of the
preexisting social aspects, and could be categorized under the social lens. It is the
combination of all of these lenses which creates whole and relevant understanding
for each scenario. I recognize that it may not be possible to investigate each of these
criteria without hierarchy, but if one strives to do so, the resulting understanding
will be more informed and less prejudiced than it would be otherwise. Considering
all lenses in context would create a multidimensional focus that allows for a broader
system of understanding. To test this hypothesis, I will be investigating Civic Center
Park in Denver Colorado through multiple perspectives/lenses. With a redesign of
Civic Center Park I am trying to set up the potential for systems to unfold, while not
dictating how they change, and allow multiple systems to unfold in parallel, which
would then create an unforeseeable, unknowable global effect.
Here I will define the eight lenses, which can be combined to create a
holotropic opportunity. Holotropic, literally meaning "changing the whole," has
more potential to unfold with multiple perspectives considered. Within a holotropic
approach to design, if a change is inserted at one level of a system, this change will
impact connected systems. The following are guidelines for understanding each of
the eight lenses as referenced in the multidimensional approach.
Economic- "justified in terms of profitability [and] considered in relation
to trade, industry, and the creation of wealth," (New Oxford American
Aesthetic- "the conditions of sensuous perception," (Williams 27)
Technical- "the science of the application of knowledge to practical
purposes," ("Technology" Merriam-Webster)
Political- "of or relating to the government or the public affairs" (New Oxford
Social- "the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of
human beings as members of society" (Merriam-Webster Online)
Environmental- "aiming or designed to promote the protection of the natural
world," (New Oxford American Dictionaries)
Energetic- opportunities for ritual and communal experience, and potential
recognition of how one fits into the universe.
Unknowable- the potential for unfolding events along the lines established
by the layers and in combination, synthetically.
It is important to recognize that with each point of view, there is a
presupposition that can limit one's ability to investigate and gain a critical
understanding. These limitations can be addressed by "unknowing," which is not
to be confused with the lens "unknowable." "The "un" is not to be taken as a simple
"un"which would be an escape from its other, but rather as an un-operation
transpiring in the inner most secret chambers of itselfthe inner most secret
chambers of knowing," (Caputo 250). With unknowing there is an opportunity for a
perceptual shift that allows one to see the known in a new light. This "un-operation
within knowing.. .is a kind of recalling of the past, while also disclosing new
possibilities for a truly future present that is unimaginable and transcends the given
present," (Mazzeo "Unknowing"). Unknowing is an integral part of knowing, as
one cannot know without unknowing. Unknowing deserves emphasis when seeking
knowledge because, as Caputo states "Unknowing prevents us from ever inflating
our conclusions. Unknowing is more about not arresting things in a certain position,
thus settling on a thesis, a meaning, or a truth," (250). This strategy is implicit within
each lens, and is manifest in the discrete layers as an openness of interpretation in
meaning for each lens within the specific scenario; "Just enough unknown to keep
our options open in order to make the land ready for what is to come next, that is
those things that are not yet realized, or unforeseeable," (Mazzeo "Unknowing").
I see an opportunity to modify the process of how we make places, which
would allow for a new social consciousness to co-manifest within these new
environments. As James Corner suggests, "The emphasis shift from landscape as
a product of culture to landscape as an agent producing and enriching culture."
(4). Key to any successful investigation into the nature of consciousness and of
design process is an understanding of the interconnectedness of everything, the
oneness of all. When designing, one is creating. This act of creation is an enormous
responsibility when one considers the potential ramifications of how any single
change can affect larger conditions. Consider the interconnectedness of networks and
nested systems, such as that which is found in the structure of a brain. "The brain
is a system of systems. Neurons organize into local networks, which are integrated
into regions and structures in the brain, which in turn work together as systems."
(Hannaford 26). A brain can be considered to be one level of a nested system that
is made up of neuro-pathways, which are, in turn, made up of neurons. If a change
occurs at the neural level, it will affect the organization of connections at the neuro-
pathway level, and, therefore, continue to effect the larger, brain level to the system.
A small change at any point in these systems of systems can have a cascading effect
on all. When designing one has to consider the potential ramifications of how a
singular change can effect a larger holon or system.
For this reason, multiple perspectives help to create a more complete
understanding of the nature of any scenario, and of the ramifications of change
within this scenario. This idea does not exist in a vacuum. I have found some
comparable perspectives within and outside the field of landscape architecture
that use multiple perspectives as a method to manage a rich, complex condition or
scenario. Examples of philosophies and strategies that embrace multiple perspectives
include Design Workshop's "Legacy Project," and the Seven Dimensions of Wellness,
a commonly used strategy for addressing wellness. The philosophy used by Design
Workshop defines a "Legacy Project" as:
"We believe that when environment, economics, art and community
are combined in harmony with the dictates of the land and needs of
society, magical places result- sustainable places of timeless beauty,
significant value and enduring quality, places that lift the spirit.
Design Workshop is dedicated to creating legacy projects: for our
clients, for society and for the well-being of our planet." (Design
Workshop Firm Profile and Design Philosophy).
This is an acknowledgment of the necessity to consider place as a multidimensional
and multivalent set of conditions. With an environmental, economic, art, and
community perspective, something larger than the discrete components can emerge.
Design Workshop uses continuous feedback by the alignment of client desires with
land analysis and the "market realities," as well as engaging the community to "tease
out creative solutions. (Design Workshop Firm Profile and Design Philosophy). The
sentiments expressed in the Legacy Project suggest the holotropic nature of design.
The ramifications of these considerations are felt at multiple scales: the individual,
the group, and the world.
The Seven Dimensions of Wellness is a well-used standard for evaluating
and achieving a balanced life. The components are social, physical, intellectual,
emotional, occupational, spiritual, and environmental, (Dimensions of Wellness).
"Overall, wellness is the ability to live life to the fullest and to
maximize personal potential in a variety of ways. Wellness places
responsibility on the individual; it becomes a matter of self-evaluation
and self-assessment. Wellness involves continually learning and
making changes to enhance your state of wellness," (Dimensions of
These components are lenses through which one sees oneself. Through this seeing,
an assessment can occur. This system forces the individual to consider their life as
By analyzing a particular environment through the eight lenses, a
multidimensional condition can unfold. The multidimensional perspective that
this thesis investigates consists of acknowledging the inherent dimensionality
of the environment; leading users to have a different understanding of their
new environments and social consciousness, and realizing their surroundings
are as complex as their realities. Therefore, a single change in the environment,
affects change of various scales and time. It is also important to recognize how
a multidimensional approach to design leads to an understanding of spaces as
being multidimensional themselves. These spaces are able to fulfill the needs of
diverse expectations as long as they are allowed to by their users. Imperative in
understanding the importance of what I will refer to as the multidimensional
approach, is recognizing how space and time are inherently multidimensional. The
problem is that we often do not conceive of them as such. Ultimately, any design
is open to interpretation, as expectations evolve. Over time the specific needs and
uses of any design will change, based on changing circumstances. To facilitate
this ambition, I will investigate Civic Center Park using the aforementioned
Key to a holotropic understanding is a collapsing of hierarchies. It is
important to remove bias and priorities, especially in the early stages of capacitation,
or the process by which one comes into an understanding. However, without a
hierarchy, how does one negotiate the vast and complex networks of information in
order to gain any sort of understanding of a given scenario? The implementation of
the eight lenses provides a framework that can be used to filter information and start
the process of capacitation. However, the information from all the lenses is still vastly
more information than what is currently considered. And, though an objective of this
process is to achieve a round and unbiased perspective, there is an interdependency
between perspectives that cannot be ignored, which results in overlapping poly-
oriented hierarchies. Consider the hierarchy in the Skyline Park redevelopment,
where first there exists the primary orientation and then, other subordinate
lenses. The primary lens was social, but there was an inherent connection with the
economic lens. On a general scale, because of the spatial ramifications that occur
as a result of many of the lenses, i.e. the technical or environmental lenses, there is
a formal ramification. In this word formal, I am referring to the form that creates
space. Therefore, there is an inherent interdependency with the aesthetic lens. In
this circumstance, the poly-oriented hierarchy would originate in the technical or
environmental lens and the aesthetic. This tendency continues through the other
lenses and their direct and indirect effects. All design decisions made based on an
understanding of the existing and preferred conditions have spacial and formal
Like the classical segregation of factors, qualities, etc. that are used in
landscape architecture, the lenses are superficially separated so that an unfolding
of possibilities could be achieved for each layer. For example, it is impossible to
consider the environmental lens without realizing the connection between a bio-
ecology (consists of organic, biological systems such as plants, or animals) has with
the aesthetics of an environment. For this reason, one must pretend this connection
does not exist in order to understand the environmental lens within its own
condition. As this process unfolds, the lenses, which inform a given perspective,
are then translated into layers, which inform change on the site. Once each layers
desired change is explored within each discrete layer, they were synthesized to
test the potential for how the combination of priorities could unfold together.
This synthesized layer is the "unknowable" lens, as the synthesizing is not meant
to provide an "answer" to a given problem, but suggest a potential strategy for
addressing a given scenario. The unknowable lens is not located above the other
lenses within a hierarchy. It is, rather, an understanding in parallel. We will later
return to the "unknowable" lens when outlining each lens and their application on
Civic Center Park.
4. Horizontality of the Landscape
I conceived of the layers with the idea that land can be perceived as a
receptacle to our culture, ideas, and influence. Because of its horizontal nature it acts
as a flatbed that can hold a condition, (Krauss 94). This understanding came from
thinking about Jackson Pollock's work during his abstract expressionist period.
He put his canvasses on the ground, which did a couple of things. By being on the
ground they were, first of all, capable of being receptive to the media in a new way.
They now could also work with gravity to catch the flinging of paint, the footprints,
cigarettes and such to became a collection of the process, an index of him, (Krauss
95). The aleatoric nature can be described as a "mapping of hunches," (Mazzeo
"Unknowing"), with regard to his moves. As human beings, we conceive of the
word vertically, because of our own verticality. This also refers to how we perceive
form. By moving something to the horizontal plane, and therefore below form, it
become formless. An equally important aspect of our vertical perception dictates that
when something becomes horizontal it becomes below culture, below the perceived
existing condition. Thus, his paintings did a couple of things. They acted as an index
of his process through the aleatoric nature of his work, they were formless, and
outside of culture, (Krauss 93-103).
This is the basis underlying the visual metaphor I chose to represent the
layers within the testing of the multidimensional approach. I am graphically
describing the process through a visual metaphor of drops on a surface as though I
am dripping, or annotating, this condition through drips on the site. As drips on a
horizontal surface, they are formless; though they are steered by masks, they are not
meant to explicitly describe a form. The open nature of the drips helps to re-conceive
of each lens as representing the process of unknowing. It is a visual representation of
5. Civic Center Park (CCP)
CCP is located in Denver, Colorado and is adjacent to downtown and
Capitol Hill. This park is situated between the Colorado State Capitol Building
and the Denver City and County Building. It is a highly formal space and is
situated to exploit grand views. The design is neoclassical, with an axial layout.
Symmetrical buildings boast granite, bronze, gold, and marble and were designed
with Corinthian columns. There is a primary axis running east/west connecting the
Capitol Building and the Denver City and County Building. As the park is situated
on land sloping west, away from the Capitol Building, this primary axis accentuates
the slope by running parallel to it. This axis is formally articulated as a paved mall
of concrete and brick that leads park users along the axis visually and physically.
Reinforcing this formality, a secondary axis runs north to south, terminating in the
Seal Pond on the north and the Greek Theatre on the south. Also articulated as a
paved mall of concrete and brick with inserted formal flower beds, this secondary
axis is flanked by more formal gardens and a lawn. CCP is physically isolated
from its context by surrounding roads. The primary axis is segmented by two
major thoroughfares, Broadway and Lincoln Street, which compromises the axis'
functionality as a pedestrian route, but does not compromise its formality as a visual
connector. Within the site, behind the north and south termini of the secondary axes
are other vehicular thoroughfares. Colfax Ave. on the north side behind the Seal
Pond, the north terminus, is 5 lanes wide and is an obstacle to entering the park
from the north side. The south terminus is less problematic because of the adjacent
uses, which are The Denver Public Library and Denver Art Museum. Nevertheless,
figure 3: Arid image of Denver, Colorado with Civic Center Park highlighted
a three-lane road, Bannock Avenue runs behind the Greek theater. There is a visual
connection through The Greek Theater to a plaza with sculptures located between
the Denver Art Museum and the Denver Public Library, which helps to connect the
two spaces. The axis also sets up open stretches of lawn, and other gathering spaces,
such as the Greek Theater. The majority of the park's surface is turf.
figure 4: Civic Center Park
At the east side of CCP, touching the west side of Broadway is a grove of red
oaks that is bisected by the primary axis. These oaks are nearly a century old and
provide a canopy, which creates a shaded space. There are other trees of various
species throughout the site, some placed in rows reinforcing the formality, and others
acting as buffers to the adjacent buildings masses. These plantings are less formal in
expression, more "naturalistic" in their intention, and consist of clusters of three to
four trees. The rest of the park is grass, concrete, brick, or formal planting.
There are signs of the park being poorly maintained. The Seal Pond has a
sculpture within the fountain that has been vandalized by the removal of a bronze
child's head. The surface of the mall is concrete with brick inlaid. Much of the grout
between the brick has been poorly maintained giving it a patchwork appearance.
There tends to be trash strewn
about the park, making the overall
Civic Center Park is used
by many people for many reasons.
It is a hub for school children on
field trips to the city, the capital
building, and the Denver Art
Museum. It is a gathering place for
a community of homeless people
and a demonstration ground for
figure 5: Denver, Colorado, Capital Building
protesters and rallies. It is a lunch
spot for businesspeople and a place
where one can purchase illegal
drugs. One can get a tan and take a
On several event days
throughout the year, thousands of
people fill the park and the area
around the park. On these days
the city seems to make a choice: do , w. r .
figure 6: View trom CCP north to Downtown
I fulfill my daily responsibility of providing access into and out of downtown? Or
do I reprioritize and function largely as a tourist attraction? Yes, there is a rich and
diverse occupation that is constantly happening in this highly formal park. But is
this space all it could be? Does the formal expression create problematic usage? Is the
isolated nature of the park favoring some users while further alienating others?
With this understanding in mind, I have constructed layers for each lens
as they fit on the site. The proposed changes as seen through each lens are meant
to be starting points for a new future to unfold because, "every piece is driven to
extinction by the collective behavior of the system as a whole," (Holland 27).
figure 7: View west from the steps of the Capital Building
figure 8: Economic Zone
This concept of economic comes from the Oxford Dictionary definitions
stating the term economic as "justified in terms of profitability [and] considered in
relation to trade, industry, and the creation of wealth." There is a certain economic
condition that allows for the maintenance of CCP as a city gem. There would be
positive economic effects on the contiguous neighborhoods and commerce if the
park can be perceived as an amenity. The present condition of CCP displays an
appearance of relative neglect, "fostering an unsafe perception," (Mundus Bishop
Design Inc. 2). There has been a decline in the city's ability to maintain the park as a
place that can add to the surrounding civic areas, contributing to its under utilisation
by downtown Denver.
Outside of reducing the budget for CCP by reducing the maintenance needs,
there is little that can be addressed spatially to affect the economic impact of the
park on the city. I have addressed the economic lens as a layer on the landscape of
CCP as a coding system that would make it clear when one is entering the "civic
zone". The "civic zone" I am referring to is the area around a civic feature. At one
scale this can be conceived as including the blocks around CCP, or the Convention
Center. At a more course scale this can be conceived as the area which reaches from
around the Capital Building, all the way down to Confluence Park, including the
Performing Arts Complex and the Sixteen Street Mall, among other features. This
solution evolved out of two major conditions. The first is the discrete nature of the
existing civic features, regarding to the large-scale "civic zone". There is a lack of
connection between civic features at this scale. Making people more aware of CCP
would cultivate increased usage by financially contributing members of society. The
second condition is the present state of contextual isolation. If one is to approach the
park from almost any direction, its existence is a mystery until one comes upon it.
The strategy is to insert a visual vocabulary that would make relatively
close civic features more obvious to the user by creating a pattern that is deployed
within the fine scaled "civic zone" which suggests a connection between civic
features and defines an area. This vocabulary is expressed as striping manifest
on the ground plane as alternating materiality depending on the location within
downtown, such as brick and concrete or as the application of alternating colors
of concrete. This could also be expressed in formal plantings of alternating hues of
annuals, shrubs, perennial etc. There is potential for this new vocabulary to help
create a more articulated "civic zone" which would, among other things, allow for
contiguous blocks to experience heightened association with the civic feature in the
downtown area. If a neighborhood is more associated with a civic feature, then there
is a positive association with the market price of the property. The new vocabulary
will also make the discrete features seem more connected to each other, thereby
increasing the fiscal potential through improved visibility. If the major problem with
the park is its contextual isolation, then creating a vocabulary that associates it with
other civic features would help to increase public awareness and therefore increase
figure 10: Access Zone: area near CCP that is designed for pedestrian use
The understanding of "technical" comes from the Merriam-Webster
definition of technology, "the science of the application of knowledge to practical
purposes/'. As mentioned above in the introduction to CCP, there is a usability
issue with regard to circulation. There is also a problem with the pedestrian access.
The highly used roads that pass through and go around CCP, act as a barrier for
pedestrians. The site forms as an island in the middle of a river of cars. One has to
figure 11: Crosswalk zones
navigate the river to get to the
The formal expression
of CCP is neoclassic and
highly axial. This axial
organization aligns grand
views of CCP, the mountains,
and the skyline. Meanwhile,
the surrounding urban fabric
is expressed formally and
figure 12: Crosswalk access to CCP
stylistically as nineteenth and
twentieth century architecture, with an absolute lack of the neoclassic influence
found within the park. This results in isolating the park from its context visually. It
also results in problematic usage. The centered walkways draw the users along the
axis. Unfortunately the axis is broken by highly used streets, which act as a barrier
to the pedestrian. The users must then walk to the park's edge to find a safe crossing
situation, cross the street, and walk back to the center to rejoin the axis. Often,
pedestrians choose to cross streets along the axis, where it is unsafe and causes
potential traffic issues.
The strategy for the technical layer is to activate the crosswalk areas and
create a new system for circulation. Based on the number of pedestrians that use the
crosswalks in a fifteen minute period of time, I created a space that is proportional
to this usage by taking the number of pedestrians that entered the crosswalk, and
multiplied that number by 9 square feet, the average amount of personal space
Americans consider comfortable, (Newman 104). This number was used as a
guideline to make a proportional relationship among the different crosswalk zones,
which established a hierarchy denoting the areas with the most usage. These
crosswalk zones can then be interconnected through use over time, as social trails,
to create a system for circulation within the park. From the perspective of traffic
and these proposed crosswalk zones, cars would have to yield to pedestrians like in
a standard crosswalk. There would be a clear demarcation of the crosswalk zones
as pedestrian zones, which would increase the pedestrian presence to drivers, and
indicate to them to yield.
figure 13: Zones of permiable surfice and increased non-human oriented habitat
The environmental lens pertains to the existence, survival, or thriving of
natural processes including but not limited to ecologies, habitats, stormwater,
geology, air quality, soil quality, materiality, and resource exploitation. This
understanding comes from the definition of environmental as found in Oxford
American Dictionaries (OAD); "aiming or designed to promote the protection of
the natural world,". Currently at CCP, there is a lack of diversity from a biological
figure 14: Environmental Zones: permiable surfice and increased non-human exclusive oriented habi-
perspective. There is also
a priority for human usage
and it seems that considering
a non-human exclusive
perspective would help to
improve the sight ecologically.
It would be ecologically
beneficial to consider the park
as a place that is allowed to
have natural processes such as
the treatment of stormwater,
or the improvement of soil over time. There is also an opportunity to provide
conditions that are conducive as habitat for urban wildlife.
The strategy for the environmental layer is to insert a bio-ecological garland
into and around the site, by cultivating the opportunity for connections of plant life
through strings of soil exposure and the disruption of the turf and hardscape. A bio-
ecological thickening, provides an opportunity to address many issues. Specifically,
with increased biology in the introduced matrix of plants, there is potential for
increased air filtration, and water filtration. There is also potential for increased
habitat for urban wildlife, such as squirrels, fox, rabbits, and birds. Trees that are
planted close enough together to have overlapping branches, create overhead
connections, and increase the quantity of air cleaning organisms. On the ground
plain shrubs and grasses can create protection for ground dwelling creatures as well
as allow for percolation of the soil. As the garland reaches out of the park there is
potential for connecting with other patches of habitat, improving the existing bio-
figure 15: Lawn
figure 16: Political Zone: local power centers
The political lens is defined as pertaining to that which is involved in human
bureaucracies, and the hierarchical priorities of governing agencies or as stated in
the OAD, "of or relating to the government or the public affairs,". In a democratic
society, this is manifest in the landscape as a forum for confronting, expressing, and
articulating perspectives; a place for discourse. The current state of CCP includes
this perspective thoroughly. There are open spaces in the vicinity of power centers,
such as the courthouse, to provide a
forum and these spaces are often used
for protests and rallies. The strategy
for this layer is to preserve this lens
and to leave much of this nature intact.
Specifically, spaces such as the Greek
Theatre and substantial stretches of
lawn remain on the layer.
Figure 18: Anti-war rally
figure 19: Social Zone: areas near the park that were designed as opportunities for interaction
The social lens pertains to the wants, needs, aspirations, and agendas of
a given group of people. This exists at local, regional, and national scales and is
evident in the landscape as opportunities for interaction on a peer to peer, group to
group or peer to group basis. The Merriam-Webster Online dictionary defines social
as, "the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings
as members of society,". Like the political lens, 1 found the social lens of CCP to have
figure 20: Social Zones: areas that are used as opportunities for interaction
been sufficiently addressed. There
are opportunities expressed in the
open spaces, the Greek Theatre, and
axial pathways of the park, which
fulfill this criteria by providing
opportunities for interaction. It
does seem, though, that there is an
opportunity to address the specific
wants and needs of various social
groups. There were surveys conducted relax
by Mundus Bishop Design Inc., a local landscape architectural firm, which assessed
the perspectives of local and regional users of different groups (Civic Center Public
Survey Results). This investigation found that the population wants gardens,
fountains, markets, playgrounds, and lawns (4-6). These desires were kept in mind
during the articulation of the strategy of the social layer. Considering the present
primary user group is the homeless population, and any activation of the space is
designed to bring in different users i.e. playgrounds would hopefully invite families
with kids, there is inevitability going to be a displacement of preexisting groups
to a certain degree. This being said, the design of the park does not have to favor
one group over another. The strategy for the social layer is to preserve some of the
functioning social features, as mentioned above, while providing opportunities for
local destinations, including playgrounds and markets, to be included as the design
figure 21: Vagrents using the park as a place to
figure 22: Energetic Zone: area around the park that provide opportunities for reference
The energetic lens is manifest in the landscape as opportunities for ritual
and communal experience, and potential recognition of how one fits into the
universe. The framing of this lens comes from the knowledge that energy is the
universal commonality. We are all, fundamentally, energy and even as physical
form, our bodies are transformers of energy, (Jouette). By energy I mean that which
enables us to live, we eat food and change it into energy. The expression of the
energetic lens exhibits how we
relate to our environments and each
other over time. Within CCP, there
is a rich history shown through
the many sculptures, monuments
and structures. It seems that these
elements can be exploited with the
energetic lens in mind. This potential
can occur in a myriad of ways: scalar
as human-structure-sky or mountain-
city- group, temporally as human-tree-statue, or as an expression of power as
capital building- group- individual. By providing referential conditions, one has the
opportunity to experience a potential recognition of how one fits into the universe.
The energetic strategy consists of preserving this potential on the site by continuing
to provide one with the condition such as a historic statue and the space to stand in
with a group.
Like the aforementioned social and political lenses, the energetic lens is
manifest as an openness. It is important to preserve the potential for unforeseen uses.
The park, with its expansive spaces certainly allows for this.
figure 24: Scalar relationship of human-park-city, or
temporally as human-city-planet
figure 25: Aesthetic Zone: Area of local aesthetic influence
The aesthetic lens details that which can be perceived by the senses.
Specifically all things which stimulate one's ability to see, hear, touch, smell, taste,
orient one's self in space, and allow one to equalize with gravity. These experiences
occur in reaction to form, texture, color, motion, space, pattern, rhythm, sound,
noise, aroma, odor, and flavor, among other phenomenon. This can be expressed as
styles, standards, and / or criteria. Though this understanding is closer to the popular
Figure 26: Aeshetic Zones, opportunities for aesthetic "glue"
definition of phenomenology, I feel there is
a dependency between phenomenology and
aesthetics, especially when one considers
aesthetics "in the original and broader Greek
sense of the science of 'the conditions of
sensuous perception," (Williams 27). More
basic then the philosophy of beauty, instead
what allows for beauty, as anything can be
considered beautiful. I am not referring to
figure 27: View if CCP from Capital building,
aesthetics as a branch of philosophy that deals ^acing west
with principles of beauty and artistic taste (OAD). Instead I am referring to aesthetics
as phenomenon "the object of a person's perception, what the senses or the mind
notice" (OAD). The sensations we experience are phenomenal; as designers we
manipulate these conditions that solicit a phenomenal response, which is aesthetics.
The strategy is to use the aesthetic layer as a binding agent to help integrate
the existing neoclassic style with the new layers, as well as integrating the layers
with each other. Because many prior layers will have a formal affect on the site, i.e.
striping from the economic layer, garland from the environmental layer, pedestrian
zones and social trails from the technical layer, all of these in combination will
greatly effect the aesthetic potential of the park. This combined with the pre-existing
aesthetics i.e. materiality, neoclassic expression, etc. creates an opportunity for this
layer to act as a binding agent to unify the park, creating a condition that is unified
as a design as apposed to being multiple disprate conditions coinciding. Because
the aesthetic layer is dependent on the ramifications of the other layers, I focused
the strategy on the integration of the various layers as zones within the park that
will influence the formal expression and how the park integrates as a whole. This
will integrate striping from the economic condition with the garland from the
environmental condition the walkways from the technical condition with the pre-
existing site condition.
figure 28: Unknowable
Unknowable, is the potential for unfolding events along the lines established
by the layers and in combination, synthetically. As the name implies, one cannot
predict exactly how this condition will manifest; "real systems are open to, and
interact with, their environments, and... they can acquire qualitatively new
properties through emergence, resulting in continual evolution," (Heylighen and
Joslyn). With this in mind, it is important to understand that there are a wide variety
of ways this synthetic layer can unfold. This is important as a step because of the
tendency of humans to preserve a discrete understanding, as discussed in the
introduction. The unknowable lens is a synthetic, or synthesizing, step. Synthesis is
"the combination of ideas to form a theory or system" (OAD).
With the park in mind, and to help articulate the meaning of unknowable, it
is important to recognize that unknowable, as the word suggests, cannot be known.
That being said, their maybe some way that I can illustrate the potential for how
events may unfold as this layer is expressed. In this investigation, there is a clear
connection between the aesthetic layer and the unknowable. This is because, like
the aesthetic layer, the unknowable layer is hinged on the manifestation of the other
layers in combination. The difference between aesthetic and the unknowable, is that
the unknowable includes the aesthetic layer, and of course does not have an aesthetic
priority. If the technical layer allows for the establishment of a new circulation onto
and within the park, of course I cannot exactly predict what that circulation will be,
but I can speculate that a similar potential exists for all three re-strategizing lenses,
the economic, environmental and technical. Therefore, one cannot know with any
predictability how all three will manifest in combination, given the complexity
of the three systems interacting. And then, all seven simultaneously unfolding
is even more complex, and therefore even more unpredictable when considered
in combination. There is a "wait and see" aspect to many components of this
multidimensional strategy. It is hard to know how some of these layers will unfold
individually, consequently it is impossible to know how the layers will unfold
together. Considering the nature of landscape architecture as a medium highly
dependant upon time, maybe this is okay. After all we are not creating "instant
There is potential for synergy between layers. As an example, the garland
of the environmental layer in combination with the striping from the economic
layer should lead to an evident civic space. Ideally the synthesis would be more
than the combination of the discrete parts. One would hope that for the parks sake,
the technical strategy with the environmental strategy would give you a techno-
environmental strategy that is better than just the combination of the technical and
the environmental layers. Another example is the combination of the economic
layer and the technical layer. As mentioned in the introduction, economic potential
is connected to perceived safety, as illustrated in Skyline Park. The technical layer
is designed to increase access, which will hopefully increase usage. Well populated
spaces often have the perception of safety. So in this circumstance the combination of
the economic with the technical could unfold in a way that is extra economic by way
7. Criticism of the Process
"Traditions tend to fear the unknown, [while the multidimensional
approach embraces it] when the thing we should actually fear, or fear
most is the familiar, or what we think we know. At the very least,
we should be suspicious of things that appear to be too familiar,"
Now that an understanding of how the multidimensional approach unfolds,
it is time for a critical look at this multifaceted method to addressing a design. This
design process is appropriate for conditions that are complex. The trick, it seems, is
to not over complicate the already robust understanding of the world that landscape
architecture offers, and to then not overly simplify the complexity in order to
make the scenario approachable and manageable. Like the well-known strategy
proliferated by Ian McHarg, which approaches site planning from an ecological
perspective and uses a system of layering to discover appropriate placement of site
features, (McHarg 105), this strategy hopes to make something too complicated
in its given condition understandable and then usable. Also, like the McHargian
method, this strategy used layers as an aid to understanding. Unlike the McHargian
method this strategy does not strive to overly simplify an environment with an
overt ecological priority, and overlook much of the other conditions. As Marc Treib
wrote "The McHargian view was focused to the point of being exclusive, confusing
and conflating two rather different arenas of landscape intervention. Reams of
analytical overlays might establish the criteria for making a suburban garden, but
they can hardly provide the actual design," (31). McHarg believed that science and
art are interdependent, but in reaction to a popular form of Landscape Architecture
that over emphasizes art. His followers came to disregard it and became analysts.
The Multidimensional Approach does not attempt to be a design by numbers or
a rule book to be followed by dogmatic disciples, as this is the downfall of many
proliferated perspectives from Modernism to Christianity. "Every good idea, no
matter how well intended, sooner or later becomes repressive. Therefore, we need
to keep things open. We need to responsibly harass all things that claim to occupy
a privileged place of insight," (Caputo 263). This process is attempting to suggest
a strategy that would account for the multidimensional, complex world we find
ourselves within, and then help to steer the execution of a given design. It uses a
layering system to gain understanding of discrete conditions and the relationship
between these conditions. It does not turn landscape architects into analysts. It sets
up a framework that allows for recognition of the opportunity for synergy between
Another well used process for designing was originally described by John
Zeisel, author of Inquiry by Design: Tools for Environment, Behavior, Research.
This process is described as a spiral model, which "illustrates the rational and
intuitive processes that occur simultaneously within the designer's mind," (Mogen
146). This process is characterized by an iterative reevaluation of design choices,
repeating steps in the design process while varying the perspective of the design and
"moving through progressively linked multidirectional cycles that work in unison
towards the single overall goal of a successful project," (Mogen 146). While the spiral
method deals with a strategy for designing, it is specifically outside of the scope of
the multidimensional approach per se; the multidimensional approach is open and
maybe most effective with this kind of process. What I am attempting to investigate
with the multidimensional approach is a process that is strategic in its multiple
perspectives. This does not limit the designer to a specific process of using these
lenses. The multidimensional approach could be nested within the spiral method
allowing for iterative reevaluation of choices.
The shortcomings of this approach are many. There is a tendency to over
analyze; there is a necessity for simplification. Additionally, the scale of analysis
and associated information are much for an individual, there is an element of bias
that can never be removed and because of the unresolved nature of this approach,
maybe there are still opportunities for the dimensionality to be lost and the design to
remain too unresolved. As Anita Berrizbeitia, author of "Scales of Undecidability,"
states, "In a coevolving system, the introduction of a new program or a new
phenomenon would induce a series of changes in all other elements of the park.
Thus it is not enough merely to set up the conditions for programs to emerge,
but to project with some sense of the outcome, the effect the introduction of new
uses or species on the entire system," (121). In a system that includes as many
priorities as the multidimensional approach does, it becomes difficult to predict the
potential ramifications of how these priorities will work together. That being said,
this method does not produce a concrete answer, so one should not try to use this
method as a device to provide concrete answers.
When you consider the multidimensional approach as a strategy that aids
in the understanding of a given condition, it is effective at a coarse and fine grain
scale, as long as it is approached systemically, as there are always a multi-scalar way
to look at a given scenario. The objective is to understand the system, and then to
strategically insert change. If each component within the approach is considered as a
system unto itself and the combination of all these systems put together as a system
of systems, then the idea is to modify the system at the component level so that it
functions appropriately and hopefully the system of systems would then function
better. It is also true that at a fine grain this approach lacks articulation at the scale of
place making intervention. As Berrizbeitia states "The properties of the system that
arise from the relationships among the parts are not present in the individual parts,
which have their own internal, local requirements," (123-124).
These issues are not exclusive to the multidimensional approach. Based on
the one testing of this approach, the analysis required for capacitation was seemingly
endless. I was compelled to research more and more. Eventually I had to stop due to
time constraints. Despite my effort to cover each lens thoroughly, my personal bias
lead me to focus on some lenses over others. This may lead the multidimensional
approach to be more appropriate for multiple individuals with a variety of bias.
During the translation from lens to layer, a preservation of understanding needs
to prevail, while the abundant amount of information needs to be articulated in
spatial terms. As Laurence Barth stated in Diagram, Dispersal, Region, "The plan
is not the expression of a subject it marks the occasion for thought rather than
its distillation," (Barth 33). Given the open-ended nature of this process, one can
interpret the findings in a myriad of ways. The impetus at this point, is then on the
individual choosing the outcome of the design.
In an attempt to preserve and develop the complex nature of our
environments, it is imperative that a multidimensional approach be used. It seems
that even when this is the intention, to use a nonhierarchical system, a hierarchy of
some sort will emerge. This is because each situation will have its own priorities.
The key is to not impose one's own priorities onto a given situation. With landscape
architecture one is manipulating form in some way. This gives perspectives that
deal with form a priority. We cannot completely escape our tendency to organize
things hierarchically. With this being the case, this tendency should be embraced and
designed with. Maybe the best thing we can hope for is a poly-oriented hierarchy.
With an attempt to address each lens for its own sake, the bias then has been
managed to a certain degree, and the resulting understanding is less bias than it
would have been had this not been addressed. Even with steps in place designed to
balance a hierarchical bias, a broader, but still hierarchical organization prevails.
If my ideas are correct, the ramifications of this process are far reaching.
When considering the previously mentioned example of Ulrich's research on the
therapeutic benefits of gardens on medical patients (see page 11), the construction
of a hospital, designed with aesthetic and energetic criteria in mind, as well as
economic criteria, would result in shorter stays, faster healing, and an improved
state of mind of the patients. When enlisting all seven lenses, as in the previously
detailed design on CCP, the potential exists for the park to be used by more diverse
social groups, i.e. the contiguous neighborhoods, the regional population, as well as
transient social groups, and to maintain its value as a city park over time. It is also
important to recognize how a multidimensional approach to design leads to spaces
that are multidimensional themselves, and are therefore able to fulfill the needs
of diverse expectations. Ultimately, the design is open to interpretation as these
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