PhD K Raaphorst - Look Closer: Semiotic reflection on the visual communication of multifunctional flood defence landscape designs

Within landscape architecture and planning, visual representations of landscape designs constitute the primary means of communication. Despite this reliance on the visual, there is no visual research approach available that allows a critical reflection on how these representations function within planning and design processes. Within this PhD project, such an approach is being developed by combining theory and methods from disciplines such as communication science, art history, and political geography. Concepts such as semiotics (Barthes, Eco, Derrida), simulacra (Baudrillard), and power/knowledge (Foucault) are used to describe how the visual communication (i.e. creation and interpretation) of landscape designs influences the design process.

Key questions are related to the “visual language” of landscape designs: are the styles and techniques that we use suitable for every phase of the design process? When do we use which techniques, to what purpose and for which audience? Do we do this implicitly or consciously? Does the choice of visualization determine the credibility of the knowledge that stakeholders contribute to the design? What do we value more: the image or the knowledge that lies therein?

This critical visual framework is applied within the STW consortium Integral and Sustainable Design of Multifunctional Flood Defences (project no. 08) in cooperation with Dutch knowledge institute Deltares. The role of visual communication within the participatory design processes of these Multifunctional Flood Defence (MFFD) Landscapes is often overlooked. The goal of this project is to study how these images function within the design process of MFFD landscape projects, and contribute to more effective and knowledgeable communication between stakeholders.

Stadsbrug ‘De Oversteek’ in Nijmegen, Design: Ney Poulissen, Visualization: BMD
Stadsbrug ‘De Oversteek’ in Nijmegen, Design: Ney Poulissen, Visualization: BMD