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[Detail] Yosemite National Park, Mirror Lake and Mt. Watkin

Historical Analysis and Interpretation: Architectural Plans

When choosing how to design a neighborhood, landscape designers, architects, and urban planners make value judgments about how they believe a community will thrive in terms of attracting home buyers and creating a safe and aesthetically pleasing environment. The natural landscape provides challenges and opportunities to the designers in the form of vistas, waterfronts, forest, and farmland. Designers must decide whether to highlight and preserve these features or sacrifice the ecology for human habitation.

Second Prize, City Club Competition

City Club Competition, Comey Drawing, 2nd Prize, Northwest Chicago, IL, 1913.

Searching the collection on the term plan will retrieve drawings and images of planned communities. Analyze these environments to determine what decisions developers made and what values their decisions represent. For example, the following three drawings represent architectural plans for a competition in Chicago. Review the plans to compare and contrast architectural designs. What values do these plans represent? Analyze the first place design to determine what the judges' goals were for the project.

Columbus Park Playground, NY

Columbus Park, Playground, New York, NY.

Designers' goals and techniques can also be better understood by analyzing the collection's images of parks in light of information in the Special Presentation on Charles Downing Lay, landscape architect for New York City. Search the collection on the terms park and playground and consider how the examples reflect the goals articulated by Lay. What techniques were used to meet these goals? What other goals and values are evident? If you were planning a park for your own town, what goals would you have for the park? How might you redesign existing parks or create new parks in your town to meet these goals?