Ecologies, Techniques, Technologies I

This course recognizes plants as one of the most expressive materials of the artform — a living medium that distinguishes the discipline from the other applied sciences and fine arts. The goal of the course is to introduce the global potential of plants as a means of design for shaping the character of a place for individual and collective human experience. Investigations that straddle hand-drawn, digital and analog mediums will explore the universally accessible and adaptive power of plants in making healthy, resilient ecologies and socially dynamic spaces.

The course emphasizes the use of empirical observations and investigation to explore multiple-scaled thinking about plants and their habitats, including cultural and vernacular attributes and larger ecological systems. It is not a comprehensive overview of the horticultural or botanical history of plants, however students will employ an important methodology for how to learn plants that can be translated to any locale, including the rote memorization of botanical and common plant names combined with recognition of a plant's visual features.

Through virtual field visits, lectures, and readings students will learn to identify approximately 50 plants, define notational systems, and translate plant characteristics into design languages that they can apply in future design work. The course exposes students to the understanding of plants from non-managed plant communities to managed living systems.

Products of the course will include mixed media drawings that explore typologies of designed and non-designed plant communities.  Videos, photographs, black and white field notes, sketches, diagrams, and a series of curated drawings in axon, plan, and section will be the vocabulary of the course.


To hone powers of observation about the quintessential character of plants through their form, habit, seasonal and ornamental features.

To teach a methodology for learning plants in any particular location.

To nurture eye, brain, and hand communication as ways of learning about a dynamic medium.

To develop empathy for plants as living, intelligent beings.

To cultivate individual points of view and sensibilities about plants.

To understand plants as part of larger biological communities and systems. 

To promote the use of abstraction with plants in conceptualizing planting design and spatial experience.


Virtual attendance at lectures and discussion sessions.
Evidence of thoughtful preparation of assignments, and individual presentations.