Topographic Expression


This very simple exercise explores the use of topography to express a given emotive word. The vertical and horizontal relationships present in the section line are analyzed through the addition of figures, who indicate possible experiences within the landscape. In our work, these simple section lines might translate to built form, earthwork, planting, or other material explorations which aim to curate the on-the-ground experience of a space.

Desired outcomes: intuition

Methods: emotive drawing


  • 3 sheets letter size drawing paper
  • Trace paper
  • Pens, pencils, markers, fine liners, etc.


  1. Choose 3 of the following emotive words: artificial, cavernous, claustrophobic, compressive, desolate, dramatic, expansive, familiar, flow, gentle, geometric, hospitable, industrial, pastoral, rhythmic, rugged, sacred, structured, sublime, tranquil, urban, vast, wasteland, wild
  2. For each word, sketch 10 section lines that evoke the word
  3. Choose the most successful section line for each word. On trace paper, add human figures at various scales to test the human experience of the proposed space

reflection questions

  1. What application might the evocative section line have in your everyday design practice?
  2. Do your section lines provide an adequate base for constructing an evocative landscape? Why or why not?
  3. How did your perception of the section change with the addition, arrangement, and scaling of human figures?


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