Amy Taylor Wins 2017 ASLA Student Honor Award

Amy Taylor (MLA ’17) is the recipient of a 2017 American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Honor Award for her project, Fairy Tales to Forest. The capstone project was initiated in Assistant Professor Jake Boswell's Research Methods seminar and completed in his third-year graduate landscape design studio. “I am honored to receive the ASLA Honor Award for Research as it highlights the opportunity for creative investigation in landscape architecture to integrate culture into our designed spaces,” Taylor commented. Recipients will be honored at the awards presentation ceremony at the 2017 ASLA Annual Meeting & EXPO, October 20-23 in Los Angeles.

Taylor’s project is premised on the idea that interactions with our environment are influenced by encounters with nature at an early age. Fairy Tales to Forest develops research on formative perceptions of nature through a study of forests in children’s literature. The project concludes with an innovative tool kit of fairy tale forest archetypes that can be employed in landscape designs to directly connect children to the natural environment. “The project highlights a means in which to design and build children’s forests as an immersive family landscape,” stated Taylor. “It also introduces a methodology to analyze and design a site inspired by cultural values.”

Taylor points to the work of Roland Gustavsson, 2016 Trott Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Knowlton School, as an early influence on her research topic. In “Exploring Woodland Design,” Gustavsson describes the structure of woodlands and how their design can foster rich sensate experiences. He describes the adventurous woodland, a relatively new concept, which emphasizes the value of “designing woodlands that support children, their development, their creativity and their play.”  

Taylor stated that the first phase of her project “employed a qualitative content analysis of children’s literature that defined the role forests play.” From 112 children’s books, Taylor analyzed text and illustrations, categorized various depictions of forests, and delineated new children’s forest archetypes.

In addition to considering the question, “What role does the forest play in the story?” Taylor indicated she approached text analysis as she would a site for design: “If addressed in the book, I recorded the forest description, human and wildlife interaction with the forest and any significant climatic influences.” Taylor’s analysis of illustrations included documentation of spatial relationships, tone and imagery style.

Through the process of classifying text analysis, spatial diagrams and the character qualities of forests, Taylor identified seven forest themes: enchanting, ominous, guardian, happy, uninviting, tranquil and nocturnal forest embodying 21 new archetypes. Taylor indicated her project explores how these dynamic forest typologies can be the focus of family landscapes. “My children’s forest tool kit empowers fellow designers to create experiential landscapes that have a lasting impact on how we interact with our surroundings,” she stated. “Whether rural or urban, children’s forests have the capacity to encourage activity, discover nature, nurture health, free the mind and unleash the imagination.”

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