Language, narrative tropes and effective communication of design ideas: expanding a conceptual framework for the discursive realm of landscape architecture

Clement, L.A., 2004, Language, narrative tropes and effective communication of design ideas: expanding a conceptual framework for the discursive realm of landscape architecture, in: ECLAS (Jørgensen, K. & G. Fry), ‘A critical light on landscape architecture’, ,

  • Author : Clement, L.A.
  • Year : 2004
  • Published in Book : A critical light on landscape architecture
  • Abstract in English : Landscape architects record and communicate visual and spatial ideas by drawing and by building models in various media. Our thoughts are clarified by critiques; by writing and oral presentations, but students often cannot find the right words for clear self-expression, be it for explanation, persuasion or inspiration (Aristotle: logic, rhetoric, poetry). Diana Balmori critiques current professional practice with observations of “the inability of her colleagues to compellingly communicate their ideas about landscapes to the public.” She notes a “lack of tools for communication” and that “landscape is speaking a very poor language right now.” (Landscape Architecture March 2004, 109-111). The verbal categories we know are crucial: they determine our ability to construct and communicate meaning – for what we perceive and recognize, and how we interpret and evaluate things seen and experienced -- they affect our cognition and the outcomes of our creative processes. An overlooked tool for effective design communication, then, might be the precise use of rhetoric, or figures of speech, to complement our visual communication skills. The conceptual framework of Landscape Narratives (Potteiger and Purinton 1998) is based on narrative theory: story telling in various forms to communicate design ideas of past and current design practice. The authors concentrate on four important tropes: metaphor, synecdoche, metonymy and irony. They do not differentiate between analogy and metaphor, however, and they acknowledge that theirs is a modest selection from any list of useful figures of speech. This paper will “flesh out” the scheme that Potteiger and Purinton use with other figures of speech from a list in The Careful Writer by Theodore Bernstein. Several promise useful visual translations as means of design conceptualization, development and communication. The intention here is simply to identify and make more tropes memorable. For each term the presentation will provide a definition and example in verbal terms; description and analysis of a selected place or project that illustrates the idea visually and spatially; and a brief evaluation of the trope as an aid in design conceptualization, development, or communication. The selected tropes and images will evoke questions, as most projects and places have multiple readings and meanings -- most are palimpsests, intentionally or not. My purpose is simply to blend visual and verbal communication, to enrich our vocabulary, and to expand the universe of our discourse.