“Drawing Natures: US Freeway Controversies, Representational Techniques, and the Rise of Ecological Design,” Journal of Design History (2017).

“Drawing Natures: US Freeway Controversies, Representational Techniques, and the Rise of Ecological Design,” Journal of Design History (2017).

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pdf: Lystra_Drawing Natures_2016 Amidst broad disciplinary, political and technological shifts in the 1960s, a handful of U.S. urban designers experimented with highway design, thereby reconfiguring how human/nature relationships were enacted in the studio. This paper examines the specific techniques and methods used in two such experiments: a 1962 highway location study by architect Christopher Alexander and engineer Marvin Manheim, and a 1966 highway re-routing proposal by landscape architect and urban planner Ian McHarg. In some ways, these projects support the notion that 1960s design was increasingly technological and rational in character: they exemplify a key moment when data-oriented, computer-inspired approaches were integrated into urban and environmental design, and demonstrate designers’ interests in developing more scientific, comprehensive and measurable approaches. Yet attending to these projects’ techniques and methods reveals contradictions and complications within that broader narrative. In action, 1960s designers often made the categories of nature, ecology, data and technology multiplicitous and unstable, by speaking, viewing, drawing and performing them in different ways at different moments. In focusing on the actions of designing, this work contributes a new understanding of the ecocentric dimensions of 1960s US urban design, and examines the substantive roles of drawing technique and design method in defining...
“McHarg’s Entropy, Halprin’s Chance: Representations of Cybernetic Change in 1960s Landscape Architecture,” Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes (2014).

“McHarg’s Entropy, Halprin’s Chance: Representations of Cybernetic Change in 1960s Landscape Architecture,” Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes (2014).

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pdf: Lystra_McHargs Entropy Halprins Chance_2014 In the 1960s, responding to numerous economic, environmental, and cultural changes, landscape architects began to engage greater temporal complexity within the design process. The representational innovations of Ian McHarg and Lawrence Halprin were particularly influential during this period, introducing new ways for landscape architects to depict and relate to landscape change. McHarg’s ecological models established a scientific basis for landscape management. Derived from systems ecology, they employed quantitative methods to track change over time, prioritizing predictability and systematic manipulation. Halprin’s open scores defined methods for community decision-making.  Adapted from postmodern dance and experimental music, they amplified uncertainty, creating circumstances in which stasis was unachievable and chance was embraced. Ecological models and open scores were markedly different, but in certain ways they embraced similar ways of seeing.  Their interdisciplinary lineages reflected this similarity: systems ecology and postmodern dance both adopted ideas and methods from postwar cybernetics.  Depicting a systematic temporality in which interacting components composed shifting aggregate wholes, cybernetic approaches enabled landscape architects to incorporate newly complex inter-relational information into drawings.  Yet they also included a tendency to contrast the temporality of systems against their management. Accordingly, cybernetics bequeathed the field of landscape architecture with a...
Envisioning Environments: Designs for U.S. Urban Freeways, 1958-1967

Envisioning Environments: Designs for U.S. Urban Freeways, 1958-1967

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Dissertation (completed December 2017) From the postwar years through the 1960s, U.S. freeway plans catalyzed a public reckoning regarding the natures of cities. Government officials, urban dwellers, and designers and planners across the United States debated the infrastructures’ placement, wrangling over the values of threatened sites and neighborhoods. Through these debates, prior conceptions of urban environments expanded to encompass the dynamic, living, and inter-relational dimensions of cities. This transformation took place via public discourse, and also through innovative design approaches, as architects, landscape architects, and urban designers engaged freeway designs as opportunities for technical and methodological experimentation. Mixing earlier generations’ parkway visions and concerns for spatial experience with emergent cybernetic themes, data-driven analysis, scientific references, and anticipations of computerization, these explorative designs modeled natural forces in new ways, and at new scales. This dissertation examines freeway projects by Lawrence Halprin, Kevin Lynch, Donald Appleyard, Christopher Alexander, Ian McHarg, and others, drawing on frameworks from environmental history and science and technology studies to interrogate how freeway design processes engaged public controversies and modeled human/nature relationships. The chapters advance in time and scale, showing how conceptualizations of the urban environment shifted with changes in drawing implements, uses of eyes and hands, inclusion...
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