T H E  A R T



The purpose of this exposition is to provide further detail, analysis and evidence of the methodology used in the philosophical, practice-based research inquiry and research through design exposition previously published The Art of Design: From Philosophy To Practice (2020) which documents the drawings, accompanying publications, exhibitions and presentations tracing the process of developing the art of design at a regional scale through a number of sequential case studies (see publications).



This highly creative and substantive body of research develops and situates a cohesive, holistic and integrated landscape approach to transform city regions and the perception of landscape.  Uniquely, this research extends design and landscape, spatially and conceptually into an overarching strategic vision in order to deal in a different way with policy, regeneration, environment, transport, identity, infrastructure, employment, skills, wellbeing and nature. A concerted design strategy, it immerses people in the world of ideas and the visual, global challenges and possibilities for change and taken as a whole, this body of work is helping to put quality of the environment and quality of life at the top of the political agenda, changing mind-sets and behaviours of communities and institutions in the UK and abroad. Its purpose is to provide much needed political and intellectual leadership and visions for the future.


The research undertaken over the last decade (with specific focus on the period 2014-2020) investigates through practice the implications beyond the academy of the new paradigm presented in (Moore, 2010), taking as its cue the challenges outlined in the final chapter 'Theory into practice'. Responding to those challenges, this research develops a new approach to regional design based on a process of radical mapping, a sequence of case studies, exhibitions, richly illustrated presentations, a range of publications, the development of new policies, stakeholder engagement, mentoring and student collaboration. 


The research is contextualised by the radical new definition of perception presented in OTV (Moore, 2010) that challenges the foundations of epistemology with its dependence on a knot of rationalist beliefs including concepts of different kinds of truth, different ways of thinking and prelinguistic starting points of thought. This radical shift, having startling consequences for conceptions of language, intelligence, meaning, the senses, emotions and subjectivity, requires rethinking many things that we take for granted or treat as common sense, such as a belief in the supposed relaxing nature of drawing, the subjective nature of art, the notion that language is linear (there is nothing linear about spending a month writing a paragraph) and a damagingly narrow definition of intelligence. What an interpretative definition of perception offers instead are tangible connections between theory and practice, ideas and form, nature and culture. It moves debate away from the arcane and unknowable realm of metaphysics into the real world informed by knowledge and ideas, making education profoundly more democratic.


A consequence of extending a pragmatic line of inquiry into the perceptual realm is the systematic construction of an alternative world to teach the art of design (OTV). This exposition examines the consequences of this reconceptualization beyond the educational studio, based on a re-evaluation of many assumptions underlying practice-based research inquiry and research through design and the relationship between landscape and philosophy. It represents a significant shifting of methodology away from the dominant scientific/social science paradigm towards an approach that is deliberately more ambiguous and interpretative, crossing disciplinary silos and professional boundaries, dispelling the habitual dualities made between fact and value, mere opinion and real truth. Understanding perception as intelligence, working with a definition of landscape as the relationship a community has with its territory, it seeks to address the question as to whether these interdependent ideas can transform a region and if so, how? 



Paul Shepheard observes “The great thing is that Moore comes not with a broom to sweep the rubbish away, but with a floodlight that shows the complexities as fragments of one thing. She is not a fundamentalist, she is a radical” (Moore, 2010) pix.  This ethos is integral to the new research, informing every aspect of its conduct and expression. 


OTV argues that designing is about making propositions, presenting a vision for the future and central to the discipline is the forward thinking, the anticipatory and predictive nature of its practice - irrespective of the medium. From this perspective, the art of design is about the transformation of physical materiality, ideas, memories and visions of the future to shape the experience we have of place as the social, physical and cultural context of our lives – in other words, the aesthetics of place.  The success of this new research, exploring the art of design at a regional scale, is testimony to the pragmatic argument developed in OTV that the “breath-taking nature of the aesthetic experience is dependent on and limited by what we know” (Moore, 2010) p69. It is so significant, because as Shepheard adds,“it rescues design philosophy and aesthetics from the ivory tower and reintroduces them to everyday practice” (Moore, 2010) pix. This is precisely what brings materiality back into the picture.


This research investigates the landscape as a whole, rather than the fractured and diffuse way it is usually it is dealt with even when landscape is a prime concern. It does not deal with landscape as visual amenity, green space, blue space or grey space. The research does not use the planning jargon that that inevitably leads to an ignorance in policy and often in practice of the rich complexity and subtlety of the physical context of our lives and the impact that it has on the quality of life, rather its purpose is to make this fabric more tangible, to raise aspirations and create a sense of pride and optimism for the future. It does not depend on the dry bureaucratic talk that squeezes the life out of any debate about place and space but creates new narratives to fire the imagination. 



The methodology designed to rediscover the bigger picture is globally applicable. It involves a combination of investigative and analytical drawing and the reimagining and re-presenting of places in order to rekindle and reinvent the connection between communities and the space they inhabit, recognising the pride people take in that space, its cultural identity, be it urban, suburban or rural. It is very much a modern, contemporary view of how our landscapes work.


'Towards new research methodologies in design' (Moore, 2018) [i] argues that research in design should not really be any different from research in any other discipline. This is not to suggest that design research is just another form of ‘“problem solving” or “information processing”’, but “it does tell us, however, that ground-breaking research in or through design is absolutely achievable", and that it can be critical, rigorous and "brilliant in idiosyncratic freewheeling ways". The point is that research in design does not necessarily have to be scientific, and neither does it need to be based on rationalist views about the nature of intelligence, emotions, facts and values’ (Moore, 2018). In addition, the central thrust of the research, discussed in 'is Landscape Philosophy' (Moore, 2016) [ii] is to address the anti-Platonic question Rorty suggests James insisted on pressing, “Does our purported theoretical difference make any difference to practice?” Reasoning that philosophy can learn from practice as much it may inform practice and that research can be “gloriously free of literary theory” (Moore, 2016) p291, the research is based on the belief that the role of a philosophical investigation is “to throw more light on the problems of the past, to give a clue as to how to solve the problems of the future, in order Rorty suggests, to “speed up the pace of social change” (Moore, 2016) p293. All of the publications developing this research avoid as far as possible, the jargon that so often afflicts theory and philosophy on the basis that complex ideas can be translated into accessible, everyday language.



The large-scale spatial structure of landscape rarely figures in our consciousness - not as we move around places in everyday life or even in our imagination. The structure and detail is lost on a screen and is virtually impossible to read on maps, particularly of urban areas, buried by the graphic emphasis on buildings and roads. Often left off altogether, as characterless, blank, flat, voids, landscape has become invisible, forgotten. It is presumed to be of little or no consequence.


Arguing that drawing is an analytical skill and that “rather than mediating between the conceptual and the visual, drawing can be seen simply as a way of working out an idea”, (Moore 2003) the research evidenced in this exposition uses radical mapping in a number of ways, including as a tool to understand and rediscover the physical materiality of regions, history and culture, hydrology, scale and monumentality. The drawings, artistic representations expressing form and ideas in combination with the images used in the presentations and the accompanying spoken narrative create as a whole, an incredibly effective way to engage and inspire stakeholders, to persuade and change perceptions.


Feddes (2017) observes in his report of the international symposium “confrontations in the metropolitan landscape” (2017) that the process is about “discovering “landscape where you thought it couldn’t be”… right under your nose…” He adds, it is significant because: “once you presume the cohesion of a river valley, instead of the later fragmentation, the area can get a new identity and revitalise. This change of perception is the turning point (Feddes, 2017).


For example, finding the Thames in Thurrock [1] . The invitation to work in there was quite blunt:


“You have to come down here. We need you. It is so weird.”


Two years later: “this is the first time anyone has given me a sensible rationale for regional planning decisions" (Director of Planning, Thurrock).


A holistic approach to the development of Thurrock, including new proposals for the Thames Crossing, public transport routes, the location of 22,000 houses and to deal with flooding by “making room for the river” to the East of Tilbury (with digital support from Dr Cureton).


The research led to negotiations with the Department for Transport to realign the proposed third crossing to retain the “dark heart of Thurrock” to de-polder the large river basin, encourage the production of flat pack self-build eco-homes for local residents and to at last celebrate the fact that the borough has 18 miles of the Thames along its boundary hidden by flood defence walls since 1953 and was the entrance to the communities around the North Sea.  The proposals were backed up by a suite of cross directorate targets to measure change over a 3-5 year period in health and well-being.



The method of overlaying of a range of regional maps with different kinds of scientific data in the anticipation that the objective answer will emerge once enough data has been amassed has a long history in landscape planning (see: Walker and Simo, 1994) and in many quarters, although this, colloquially known as McHarg's layer cake method may not be utilised, the planning process in general, is presumed capable of being objective, neutral and based on facts alone. The philosophical starting point of this research is fundamentally different, subverting the idea that it is ever possible to be objectively neutral.  Every image is stuffed full of analysis from the beginning.  The maps aim to show places in a way that cannot be experienced by wandering around but that is absorbing and new, that gains attention and is memorable and so become part of our identity and culture. They create powerful connections to our territory. Inverting the usual way of representing the world, prioritising topography, rivers and streams over roads and buildings can be mind-blowing.


Their purpose [2] is to express ideas at an ambitious, visionary and strategic level, to focus on the bigger picture, without devolving to details and lists (such as where is the cycle track and where are the benches?) As in a caricature, these are based on detailed knowledge and express ideas with a carefully constructed imprecision, smudginess and layering that is not confrontational, threatening or slick. People touch the drawings, engage with the feeling and texture of the paper. As illustrations these are dramatically different and it appears, a welcome respite from the usual well-honed, pixel-precise digital creations that are so beguiling. These are unexpected, artistic, rhetorical tools to initiate debate, to provoke the imagination and to intrigue. 


The collision of the analogue with the digital [3], with precise georeferencing that wraps the drawings over the LIDAR imaging, serves to ground the diagrams in the physical world and emphasise that these ideas are not hypothetical but could have a reality. These ideas could be interpreted to fit the region like a glove.



Unexpectedly, through mapping [4] , it was found that the rivers and streams of the headwaters of the Tame connect the divided communities across the West Midlands.


Making a map can take minutes or years to think about [5] or execute and a couple of hours or many weeks to build up the courage to begin.  Mapping is about deciding and selecting what to draw, how to draw it, what paper to use (weight, colour, thickness, texture), what size, what ideas to express and how to express them, what colours to use, what materials, the thickness of lines, the scale and how and where to make the first mark and where to finish. A blank piece of paper is just as daunting when drawing as it is when writing. 


The research is predicated on the presumption that is only possible to be objective if we are informed, if we make judgements from a position of knowledge, aware of our prejudices, preconceptions and desires. The hard part of course is to recognise what these are and then to have the courage to put them to one side if necessary. The knowledge required to map a region depends not on metaphysics, the genius loci, subconscious or universal laws (the kind of things that pervade landscape architectural discourse and design process methodologies research), but on knowledge learned and gathered over time, applied and interpretated to an understanding of a place (at whatever scale), its history, problems, ambitions and potential, its social, economic and natural contours. Driven by curiosity, this is what gives us the intuition to know where to search, who to speak to, which books to select or which websites to browse to amplify our understanding. It also drives the interpretation and method of the re-presentation of the information gathered.


To undertake this work, maps at the same scale in a printed format are traced and overlain.  The contours are vital [6].  Re-drawing the contours is not just a technical task, but a critical, analytical investigation that requires knowledge to make sense of what it is you are looking at. It requires geographic, landscape and artistic sensibility to understand what you are seeing as the world emerges, contour by contour, stream by stream, place name by place name as connections are made across the territory, as maps are redrawn, overlaid and redrawn again.  Generating considerable knowledge, it can open up an unknown world, like reading a new book. Tracing a contour, for example the 100m contour of the Tame Valley, exposes its topography, making unexpected connections between different parts of the region - all at the same height!  A three-dimensional, sculptural form emerges, folded, eroded and fractured, intersected and disguised by a dramatic infrastructure of rivers and streams, canals, railways and roads.


It takes courage, passion and knowledge to undertake the challenges of this kind of untamed, exploratory practice that is by no means well behaved in a traditional disciplinary sense. Described as guerrilla landscape architecture by Feddes (2017) and in many ways it aligns to the self-initiated design activism of Mathur and Da Cunha (2016)


This drawing set the foundations for the West Midlands National Park (WMNP) [6], now embedded in the psyche and policies of the West Midlands’s institutions, organisations and communities, evident in policy, bids, discussions and ambitions for the future development of the region. Showing the immense rolling topography, the junction of two of largest river systems in the UK, the vast scale of the basin that is the upper headwaters of the Tame and the crucible of the industrial revolution, nestled in the uplifted plateau that contains the West Midlands. We are frequently asked if it is Mordor.


The West Midlands National Park (WMNP) launched in 2018, is a landscape led spatial vision to shape the transformation of the region over a 30-year period. Applauded by the Glover Review of Landscape (2019) the WMNP was adopted by the WMCA in the WM2041 Actions for Climate Change and Birmingham City Councils Route to Zero (R20) (2020). A memorandum of understanding between the WMCA and the WMNP Lab signed in July 2020.


West Midlands National Park incl. HS2, Coventry and the Blythe Valley, (2018)

The map was redrawn and extended to include the City of Coventry [7], initially left off, limited by the size of my desk. Supported by investigative digging, a new narrative emerges, based on the history of the place, inferred spatial relationships and maps of possibilities, developed within the context of global and regional ambitions. This is not just about discovering things as you draw, but more importantly, understanding what it could mean - making propositions for the future asking “what if…?”


HS2 Curzon Street City Centre Park Proposal [8]

The proposals, developed in the context of international agendas (see Environment and Energy Board October 15th (2020), include in the ambition of connecting a new Birmingham Central Park into thousand parks and squares across the region, of moving from a region of invisible rivers to a region of a thousand lakes and streams, a thousand miles of SUDs and a thousand miles of cycle and footpaths. We are even talking about reclaiming the flood plains of one of the most heavily urbanized rivers in the UK


Birmingham Central Park based around the listed buildings in Digbeth and emphasising connectivity through HS2 Curzon Street Station, along the canal system, around the Ring Parks, to New Street Station and to the heart of the city at St Phillip's Cathedral, version 4 June 2018


The proposal for Birmingham Central Park (2017), an exemplar of what the WMNP could mean in practice, is encouraging HS2, BCU and other decision makers to work together, using different forms of governance and finance to create something that is better for the city as a whole, rather than simply for individual landowners. This research and ensuing debate led to the initiation of the HS2 Urban Integration studies being undertaken by HS2 along the length of the line.  


West Midlands National Park Project 1 Proposal (July 2020) [9]

The WMNP Lab has developed a pipeline of projects. Project One was submitted in the WMCA Comprehensive Spending Review bid (CSR) to the UK government and incudes:


a) Creating an alternative future for Birmingham City Centre

b) The Knowledge District

c) The West Midlands National Ring Parks

d) The WMCA Central Parks


Tame Valley Wetland Landscape Vision: understanding the relationship between the canals, the river valleys, woodland remnants and the built environment, (2016) [2] a vision for a neglected but vast valley, its flood plains used for gravel extraction, land fill, motorways, railing lines, reconceived as the heart of the conurbation, a major recreation resource for the conurbation and the ecological muscle of the region


This radical mapping needs to be understood in conjunction with images, examples of good practice and a compelling narrative. The value of this body of research is its ability to immerse observers in a visual, conceptual and spatial world.  It allows people to understand their world in a completely different way, and in a process of re-contextualising ‘much of what you previously thought you knew’ (Rorty 1999: 133), the chance to learn something new.  This is what creates a powerful sense of identity and hope for the future.



Instead of joining up the green spaces as expected, the initial research for the Black Country Consortium Broadening Horizons project (2004), proposed reconceptualising the whole region as Urban Park. Incorporated into the statutory plan, Black Country as Urban Park  2011- 2026, the basis of the Black Country as Garden City 2017 and the impetus to drive the UNESCO inscription of the Black Country as Geopark, it is early proof of the value of good ideas (above, beyond, beneath) to transform a region.


HS2LV Finding the Blythe and Tame Valley and the topography of the conurbation (2011). [11]

In response to the announcement of the proposed high-speed train between London and Birmingham (HS2) in 2010, a colleague observed, “this project needs your scale of thinking.”


Having sourced a map, after colouring in between the exaggerated contours I learnt more about the place I was born in than I had ever known. Quizzing my team of top regional decision makers “what happens there?"  pointing at the centre of the map soon indicated that they too were rather ignorant of the landscape we inhabited. But it is hardly surprising. We just don’t experience the landscape with the topography made vivid, as if there were no buildings or roads and at a scale of 1:30,000. This kind of mapping demands the ignoring of boundaries. It is a holistic, not fragmented way of seeing the world, considering context and a geographical sensibility. It gives a different perspective, a new way of seeing.



The research includes ground-breaking creative policy developed with a number of international organisations including UNESCO, the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) and the World Design Summit organisation (Montreal). The proposal for a UNESCO International Landscape Convention, (ILC) presented by Moore in 2011 to the UNESCO Board, led to her co-drafting the UNESCO Florence Declaration of Landscape (2012) (introduced by HRH the Prince of Wales) and the Matera Resolution (2013), which led to the declaration of Matera as the city of Culture in 2019. This research is also the basis of the development of professional regional and national landscape conventions and charters in Asia Pacific, Africa  and the Americas.The approach is central to the unique, cross disciplinary framing of the World Design Summit conference and World Design Declaration signed by UNESCO at the World Design Summit (Montreal 2017), and provides the conceptual and spatial context for a three-year collaborative research project funded by EIT Climate Kic (1.46 mi euros) with partners in Sweden and Italy. Of great significance is the fact that this research has supported the development of UNESCO policy to integrate previously distinct conventions on tangible and intangible heritage through the Culture for Development Indicators Suite, designed to monitor the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (2020) 



The process of student collaboration, community and stakeholder engagement capacity building and extensive national and international networks provides important feedback and invaluable contributions to this research, extending the design process and landscape way beyond its usual parameters.


Courses offered in large scale regional design through the vehicle of the MA Landscape Architecture Thesis Studio at BCU and the design process studio have enabled students to become co-researchers on this work. Their projects have had a tremendous impact on visitors (at the end of year exhibition) as has their engagement in community projects in conjunction with the Physical Activity Strategic Lead for the West Midlands Combined Authority.


Stakeholder engagement and capacity building involving more than 200 presentations around the world inspire the work of institutions such as UNESCO, METREX, UIA (Nigeria) and the wider international community. The research has been supported with feedback from a comprehensive infrastructure of regional stakeholder engagement including the WMCA, Birmingham City Council, RSPB, Environment Agency, the National Trust, the Arts Council England, the RSA, the Princes Trust and the WMNP Advisory Board.


The approach to visioning, stakeholder engagement and capacity building is a central thread to the WMNP and the Climate KIC EIT SATURN project including exhibitions, expert seminars, conferences, and mentoring with teams at HS2, the regional management team of the Environment Agency



The ability to print plans to a specific scale rather than fitting images to the size of a page or a screen is increasingly a rare skill. The transfer of information from one scale to another is prohibitively time consuming. Although it is relatively easy to overlay certain types of spatial data sets digitally (see for example, the Black Country Consortium Spatial Intelligence unit maps) and it is possible to overlay maps on a phone, it is not possible to see the region as a whole with the level of data needed and the maps cannot be printed to scale in order to understand or infer different kinds of spatial relationships or to generate ideas. As the planning system changes and less information is needed for the decision-making process, it seems that less data is publicly available. There are costs involved in accessing data from companies such as the Ordnance Survey Ltd and the Environment Agency. More disturbing is the fact that spatially invested professionals are often required to stay focused inside the red line boundary of the site or instructed not to print at all. Limiting perception conceptually and spatially, the possibility of seeing the bigger picture is increasingly diminished.



If we have the confidence to move away from the central hard core of scientific assumption and methodology, there is a real chance to develop new approaches, make connections across and between disciplines, and erase rigidly drawn boundaries delineating and distinguishing practice from theory. The old Cartesian duality is a house of cards … time to blow it down. 



To properly demystify the art of design we have to recognise that there is no choice but to engage with ideas at every stage of the design process and in order to develop artistic practice we need to express these ideas and feelings in space, words, shadow, light and form to manipulate and shape the quality of experience. The understanding that even the most intimate, seemingly magical elements of the design process are based on knowledge and knowledge alone, prepares the ground for a fresh artistic and conceptual approach to design, as well as establishing it as a holistic, critical endeavour.



Feddes, F. (2017) 'International Symposium: Confrontations in the Metropolitan Landscape' in Landscape Triennale, The Next Landscape, edited by Fred Feddes and Jaap Modder. Netherlands: DeltaMetropolis.

Moore, K. (2020) The Art of Design: From Philosophy to Practice, Research Catalogue


Moore, K. (2018) 'Towards New Research Methodologies in Design',  The Routledge Research Companion to Landscape Architecture: Routledge, pp. 312-323.

Moore, K. (2016) 'Is landscape Philosophy?', in Doherty, G. and Waldheim, C. (eds.) Essays on the in Identity of Landscape: Routledge.

Moore, K. (2010) Overlooking the Visual: Demystifying the Art of Design. Abingdon: Routledge, p. 272.


Rorty, R. (1999) Philosophy and Social Hope. London: Penguin.


Walker, P. and Simo, M. (1994) Invisible Gardens. MIT Press.







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Further details --> HS2 LANDSCAPE VISION

Further details --> HS2 LANDSCAPE VISION

Further details --> MALA STUDENT WORK

Use the valley system as the ecological muscle of the region?
In the heart of England, might we find the beginning of the long-distance footpath to the North Sea?
Only allow development above a certain level
Living not on the edge of the city but looking over an astonishing health resource
Giving the region a strategic advantage that quite literally comes with the territory
Consider models such as tax increment financing

A council leader, stroking the map “what it would be to own a vision like this”

“When I first saw Kathryn’s drawings I felt as though my eyelids had been peeled back!” (regional leader, a sentiment echoed by others at the initial WMNP Foundation Board)

Where did you get that map? Can I buy it? (a stranger at the public library as we were hunting for maps)

"The bubble diagram 25 years to think about, 2 hours to draw…
It’s the equivalent to discovering Birmingham’s pyramids (Director of Public Health, Birmingham)"

Let’s go and have a look at that valley between Coventry and Birmingham’

What valley? (from a Brummie, born and bred) “are you sure it still exists?”