Update 20120418 [Need to be revised]

Topic (Temporary title)

Application of semiotic approaches in urban landscape architecture design process

Advisory committee

Dr. Byoung-Suk Kweon, Associate Professor, Committee Chair

Dr. David Myers, Associate Professor, Committee Member

Someone in PSYC Department

Problem statement

Treat the urban landscape design as a problem shooting process on the point of view of people in environment.

Critical Position

Try to add a new way to urban landscape design method which open the designers’ mind throughout the design process.


As our language develops, it becomes more and more accurate on describing our world. Since the way we describe things is an anti-process of invention and improvement, our languages becomes an obstacle between us and free imagination. For example, the application of benches in public space is based on our needs of recreational infrastructures. Benches in public space provide us with the opportunity of applying sitting posture, thus effectively reduce the burden of our legs which carries the whole weight of our body when we stand. In order to keep our language simple enough for daily use, we added in the word “bench” to our vocabulary to describe a piece of furniture, which typically offers seating for several people (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bench, Wikipedia). This type of vocabulary contains a wealth of information which at least part of it is often ignored in the daily use. When come up with these words, people’s first impression is often a specific instance rather than the common characteristics of all elements in this set. From a linguistic point of view, the essence of this phenomenon is, a collective noun is used as a proper noun by at least one party of the speakers and the listeners in the communication. In response to this phenomenon, I’m trying to develop a different way which emphasis more on the feeling of people in urban environments to improve our design method.

To achieve this goal, the first priority is to change the language of design. Instead of thinking what kind of specific infrastructures is needed on a site, we go a little deeper and thinking what kind of feeling is needed on a site. In this way we get more options on the same design. For example, instead of thinking “people will need a parasol here”, we think “what will provide the cool feeling under sunshine”. Thus we have several options: shade, breeze, water feature, air-conditioner, etc. Then we have more options under each of these labels like parasol, canopy, building, sculpture and even other person or animals could provide shade. Since not all of these options are reasonable, we need to optimize our choice range by adding other factors when we reach the substantial landscaping elements: air-conditioner cannot meet our sustainable requirement when placing in an exterior space, building a fountain will probably crash our budget, buildings might block the horizon or a charming waterfront view, etc. Sometimes the result might be nothing but a parasol, but the process provides a strong reason to put a parasol on this particular site. (At this point I’m hesitating on the necessity of developing a set of simple but intuitive symbols to describe people’s feelings in environment.)


Urban landscape design, people’s feeling in environment, language of urban landscape design

Content frame


Literature Review


  1. Semiotic description of human emotions;
  2. People’s emotions in environment;
  3. Landscape design in perspective of the user group.
  4. Language of landscape (Anne Whiston Spirn’s theory and Lawrence Halprin’s theory)*/

/*Need to be further developed*/

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Hansen-Møller, Jette. 2009. Natursyns model: A conceptual framework and method for analysing and comparing views of nature. Landscape & Urban Planning 89 (3) (02/15): 65-74.

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Kaplan, Rachel, and Stephen Kaplan. 2011. Anthropogenic/anthropogenerous: Creating environments that help people create better environments. Landscape & Urban Planning 100 (4) (04/30): 350-2.

Kaźmierczak, Aleksandra, and Gina Cavan. 2011. Surface water flooding risk to urban communities: Analysis of vulnerability, hazard and exposure. Landscape and Urban Planning 103 (2) (11/30): 185-97.

Keeley, Melissa. 2007. Using individual parcel assessments to improve stormwater management. Journal of the American Planning Association 73 (2) (Apr 2007): 149-60.

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Mentens, Jeroen, Dirk Raes, and Martin Hermy. 2006. Green roofs as a tool for solving the rainwater runoff problem in the urbanized 21st century? Landscape and Urban Planning 77 (3) (8/30): 217-26.

Minshaw, Mark. 2009. Closing the parks gap. Landscape Architecture 99 (7) (07): 24-6.

Nelms, Cheryl, Alan D. Russell, and Barbara J. Lence. 2005. Assessing the performance of sustainable technologies for building projects. Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering 32 (1) (02): 114-28.

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Scarr, SandraMcCartney, Kathleen. 1983. Child Development 54 (2) (04): 424.

Sigrid, Hehl-Lange. 2001. Structural elements of the visual landscape and their ecological functions. Landscape and Urban Planning 54 (1–4) (5/25): 107-15.

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Tian, Yuhong, C. Y. Jim, Yan Tao, and Tao Shi. 2011. Landscape ecological assessment of green space fragmentation in hong kong. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 10 (2) (05): 79-86.

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Walford, Nigel, Edgar Samarasundera, Judith Phillips, Ann Hockey, and Nigel Foreman. 2011. Older people’s navigation of urban areas as pedestrians: Measuring quality of the built environment using oral narratives and virtual routes. Landscape & Urban Planning 100 (1) (03/30): 163-8.

Weiss, Allen S. 2010. Heimits of etaphor: Ideology and representation in the zen garden. Social Analysis 54 (2) (08/30): 116-29.

White, Stacey Swearingen, and Cliff Ellis. 2007. Sustainability, the environment, and new urbanism: An assessment and agenda for research. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research 24 (2) (Jul 2007): 125-42.

Site Analysis

Opportunities and constrains

Design element


Design approach

Conclusion and envision

/*Design Example

Community Park: Pick a site in DC and design with this theory.*/


3 thoughts on “Update 20120418 [Need to be revised]

  1. It looks like you are interested in creating a new language (emphasizing and/or proposing new words to use) in design. First, that sounds really cool. Second, are you imagining this framework as only for the design process or also to carry over to the users? Third, if you are concerned with the words and phrases used in the design process, I think you may need to define some of them–have you thought about adding a section for definitions (and if so, perhaps adding it as a bullet point in your outline)?

    • This is my first thought on my thesis topic, since i was obsessed in symbols for years, and want to use symbols to do something in landscape, inspired by Motation. But latter i changed my mind. Later i want to try something in actual experiments and survey. So i changed my directions to “How does urban water feature affects people’s mood”

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