Reframing the Picturesque: The Role of Visual Methodologies in Reorienting Historical Research for Application in Architectural Design

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


This paper reflects on themes emerging from the author’s recently completed PhD Thesis, 'Contemporary Applications of the Picturesque in Architecture: A Practice-led Approach' (Young, 2021). Through the lens of this doctoral inquiry, the paper explores the way that visual methodologies from other humanities disciplines and architectural practice, such as wall chart mapping and illustrated genealogical charts, can be re-appropriated, and used as alternatives to traditional text-based approaches to historical research in architecture. The paper discusses how these visual methodologies can provide alternative ways of gathering, synthesising, organising, and externalising information on complex historical movements or cultural phenomena that have developed over extended periods of time across manifold disciplinary fields; and how the outcomes of these visual methodologies can facilitate cognitive acts by means of visual praxis, such as sense-making (Gadamer, 1976; Klein, Moon and Hoffman, 2006; Kolko, 2010) and novel intertextual readings (Schwartz-Shea and Yanow, 2012) in ways which more traditional approaches do not readily permit. Furthermore, the paper demonstrates how these visual methodologies lend themselves to design driven research in the way that they can be oriented towards revealing concepts, techniques, and strategies for application in contemporary design; and in the way that they employ the skills, and appeal to the visual sense-making strategies, of practitioner-researchers, who often have a background as designers in practice (Kolko, 2010; Larkin, 2016; Vialard, Holgate, and Young, 2018). The paper argues that these visual methodologies and their associated outcomes demonstrate an equivalence to traditional, and more established approaches in terms of rigour; capacity to generate knowledge and insight; replicability; and effectiveness in communicating research findings (Kolko, 2010).

The paper comprises two parts:

The first part is a presented as an illustrated reflective commentary. It discusses the author’s use of an illustrated genealogical wall chart as a visual alternative to the traditional text-based literature review, which systematically mapped the extended history of the Picturesque on a single, continuous surface, charting its emergence and evolution across the disciplinary fields of aesthetics, literature, gardening, landscape design, architecture, and painting. This part of the paper also explores the potential wider utility of the genealogical wall chart in an academic context as a ‘research tool’, which can generate new research topics, and is capable of expansion in a way that is anticipatory of future research findings on the subject.

The second part discusses the way that the author has used the genealogical wall chart in a propositional way to reveal Picturesque concepts, techniques, and strategies for application in architectural design projects; and to establish theoretical contexts for architectural design projects. This part also explores the potential use of the genealogical wall chart beyond the confines of the author’s doctoral inquiry as an alternative form of ‘design framework’ - an open-ended repertoire of concepts, techniques, and strategies for application in design projects in a practice context. This part is presented through three illustrated case studies from the researcher’s practice, demonstrating how, through the use of visual methodologies, historical research in architecture can be reframed for application in contemporary architectural design.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2022
EventCA²RE, Community for Artistic and Architectural Research, Glasgow 2022: Framing and Reframing - Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 27 Oct 202029 Oct 2022


ConferenceCA²RE, Community for Artistic and Architectural Research, Glasgow 2022
Abbreviated titleCA²RE, Glasgow 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

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