The Design Observer Group

Posted 03.05.10

Ken McCown

Designed Landscapes

My previous slideshow for Places focused on found landscapes — for the most part the photographs were of scenes and places I happened upon in the course of travels — a scattering of eucalyptus leaves, an assortment of mining machinery, a grain silo in the Midwest.

The photographs here are studies in the relationship of architecture and landscape architecture to photography — a kind of research into how to see works of design. I take photographs in order to explore how photography can test architecture and landscape architecture, and vice versa.


Through taking pictures I explore how I might become a better designer. Photography heightens my awareness of the perceptual aspects of buildings and landscapes. In contrast, the process of architectural design is mostly devoted to exploring the work in progress through conceptual drawings such as plans or sections. Drawings demand responses; many decisions must be made to make a drawing function as a communicative composition; but these can often lead us away from what will be the reality of the built work. Constant connection to perception through photography keeps me aware of the implications of what I draw in plan and section, and I use this perception of place as a defining metric for design decisions.

I also use architecture and photography to disturb the assumptions of each discipline. In the photographs presented here, I examine the interplay between the two-dimensional realm of the image and the three-dimensions of architectural space. By questioning the line between the two, I test the capacity of photography to imply space beyond the picture plane, and this enhances my capacity to assemble architectural compositions that follow rules of photographic composition.