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Planning and Design of Canadian Landscapes: A Critical Commentary

Critical natural and social processes considered in landscape planning and design

In Canada, following the Second World War, the growing network of roads and railways, utility corridors and power lines, solid and liquid waste disposal sites, recreation trails, parks, and wilderness areas all contributed to the expansion of metropolitan landscape regions. This growth has created significant changes in the structure and form of the landscapes in which we live. Much of that infrastructure will have to be renewed now or in the very near future, and much of it was built of concrete, asphalt, stone, and steel. Canada is frequently portrayed as an immense, essentially rural country with vast reaches of open space and an abundance of natural resources. This is only partially true. Canada’s population is, in fact, one of the most highly urbanized in the world. In the last fifty years, the pressures on landscapes adjacent to our cities have grown by orders of magnitude, sometimes with little or no regard for their long-term health. Much of the transportation and energy infrastructure required to support this growth will need to be renewed in the very near future, as will many of the sewage, water, and waste facilities within these “new” communities.

Visit the sites you’ve chosen, photograph and sketch the landscapes. For this collection, pay particular attention to specific materials and design/environmental strategies (eg. real or abstracted natural systems) that have been used and include images to highlight these in your layout. Cropped details can be a very effective graphic technique for this in our text Grounded for an example. Write a critical commentary on the two case studies you have chosen using published sources about the sites (e.g. design documents, stories, newspaper articles, local literature and archives, etc). Remember a critical commentary is NOT simply a description, support the assertions that you make about the landscapes using relevant concepts from the course readings and other sources. Be specific. Use the following to help guide your work:

Q1 What critical natural and social processes have been considered in the planning and design of the landscapes you have chosen to study?

Q2 Was the community included in the design process? From what point in that process?

Q3 What is the social or physical narrative articulated by the designer? How is it made legible? Whose story is it? Is it inclusive of all relevant groups in the region?

Q4 How do we experience the site and its story?

Q5 What changes can you observe in the development of your regional landscape over time? Use Google Maps or other sources of aerial photographic images to track the changes in the landscape. Are there patterns that emerge? What is the nature and significance of these patterns?

Q6 As the footprint of urban development grows in your region, how has this development integrated into the agrarian, forest, or other natural landscapes it has replaced? Is there evidence that the pattern of urban development was consistent with important landscape features such as topography, rivers and streams, wetlands, or other such features?

Q7 What landscapes in your region provide important environmental services? What are these services, and how do the natural processes that are part of the landscape provide these services?

Q8 Sustainable development has become a household word and a touchstone of government policy, although not necessarily of government action. How then can we contribute through viable strategies of landscape planning and design to sustainable and equitable urban settings for our generation and those that will follow?

Q9 Taking into account when these two projects were built, did you notice things that could have or should have been integrated into the initial design? Is the site being used today for the activities that were anticipated when it was first designed? How do current zoning and building regulations govern the design of these sites, and do they allow for a variety of interpretation? Can you find online tools that help you to
understand and explore a site without actually being there? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using these tools?

Q10 To what extent do the case study examples suggested in this study unit differ from similar projects in your region? How do they respond to the opportunities and constraints of their landscape settings?

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