Reading a Landscape ( Using an interpretive or critical approach to analysis)

Write an 1,100 to 1,400 word essay that analyzes a built landscape through the lens of theory, using an interpretive or critical approach to analysis. Your essay should include the following:

LENGTH: 1,100 – 1,400 words (approx. 3 – 4 pages, Calibri 12 pt font, double space, 1” margin). Suggested format is approximately 400 word intro, 700 word analytical body, and 350 word conclusion.

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Option A: The Highline, New York City

James Corner (Field Operations), 2009


Option B: Red Ribbon Park, Qinhuangdao, China

Konjian Yu (Turenscape), 2007


I am going to pick Option A: The Highline, New York City


CITATIONS: This essay requires APA citations within the body of the text with a bibliography at the end. In some situations you may have multiple authors who support your theory about the place, so you will have multiple names in chronological order after your statement. For example: (Thayer, 1994; Spirn, 1984). Make sure you list all citations with the correct APA citation form. A guide to APA citations is available on PolyLearn. If you have questions about citations, please see me before the essay is due.

-Include: 1) a clear thesis statement; 2) use evidence from the project (images) and from theorists and/or project designer (writing); and 3) conclude with a broader statement about the meaning of this project to the field of landscape architecture in general.

-Use the project as the ‘text’ that you analyze, including images of the built work, design drawings, statements by the designers and/or reviews of the work.

-Build/draw upon the work of two theorists or theories introduced in class. Can include both restatement of the theorists’ arguments and/or direct quotes. If you choose a theorist from lecture, you must find an original text, and not rely only on lecture quotes.

-Avoid using marketing prose such as “stunning” or “gorgeous.” Write in a clear analytical style. Do not assume that a positive analysis is required because the projects were selected by the instructor. Likewise, be mature in critique, and do not use petty pejoratives such as “awful.”

-Your essay should not reformulate analysis previously published. You will be expected to synthesize reading of text and image to create an original analysis.

PURPOSE: This essay integrates the skills and knowledge we have acquired so far in the quarter, including: careful reading of text and images; use of evidence to back up arguments; critical thinking about landscape form, use and meaning; and the full array of design theory reviewed so far. As designers we constantly look to images of projects for inspiration – this essay helps us practice thinking critically about those project images.

Images accompanying the text using the APA format as well in a caption below each image.

For example: Stallings, John. Prospect Park. 1989. Flicker. Web. <>.

EVALUATION: A rubric is posted on PolyLearn that describes how this essay will be evaluated.

**If you get stuck, visit for examples of critical writing on the landscape; and (Links to an external site.) for examples of textual criticism from the field of film studies done by undergraduate students.



Aaron Betsky, “Why Tomorrowland Should Never Come (Links to an external site.),” in Architect Magazine, May 2015

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