Edward Hutchison’s charming guide, Drawing For Landscape Architecture, encourages practitioners to re-engage with the visceral mediums of drawing and painting to complement and enrich the current techno-centric representational methods used in the development of landscape design projects.
Composed in the manner of a highly accomplished sketchbook, Hutchison’s collection of powerful imagery includes sketches, isometrics and plans, complemented with insightful captions documenting their production and artistic intention. It draws the reader through successive stages of the design process and is thoughtfully narrated with reflections on the value of artistic engagement and the relevance of such methods to professional practice. Moments of personal reflection make his case all the more convincing. Instances depicting a struggle to capture a particular quality of light or texture, or when he conveys his wonderment as materials take on a life of their own, convinces the reader of the passion that Hutchison holds for his craft and makes the guide all the more accessible.
Hutchison’s approach then offers us alternative and liberating ways in which we might ‘speak’ as designers. He is committed to the belief that traditional drawing tools are indispensable to the discovery and development of a site’s atmospheric qualities, which more detached methods of representation, such as photography or computer- drawing programs can fail to engage with.
Perhaps the reluctance to engage with such methodologies is indicative of our reluctance to give into the momentum of the creative process. Drawing and painting are methods that require a looser and more explorative state of mind, which can seem like a daunting and elusive space in the midst of impending deadlines. Hutchison convinces the reader, however, that giving the time to this unknown creative space, where one draws to find out, is a worthwhile pursuit that can offer original and rich material. By picking up the pencil or the paintbrush we can explore what we don’t yet know.
As a method that is often sadly eschewed in an increasing time poor world, Hutchison attempts to rescue drawing methods from their association with esotericism and indulgence, by thoroughly exploring their potential in the realities of professional life. They can improve our relations with clients, make conceptual ideas more accessible to our colleagues, and encourage us to explore a site and our ideas with every greater fluidity, confidence and perceptiveness. Moreover, a commitment to honing these skills and opening our imaginative horizons can contribute to more sensitive and convincing design solutions that remain true to a site from concept to construction.
As a book that can be consulted to offer inspiration in times of creative lacklustre, to offer guidance regarding a specific drawing technique, or to reflect on and challenge the very methods by which we realise our projects, Hutchison's is a guide thoroughly grounded in the realities of practice that is bound to become a well-thumbed publication on any practitioner’s bookshelf.
Ruth Olden is a landscape architect and writer