issue #10



I wonder about everything, and search for patterns and relationships restlessly.
Here are a few ideas I am curious about …

Do Earth’s magnetic reversals correlate with Ice Ages or other climate changes in the geological record? Do Ice Ages correlate with any other cyclic or recurrent Earth processes/events? If so, are there any causal relationships among them?

How does the age of a language correlate with its structure and features like recursion? Are older languages more complex or more simple? Do they have more words or fewer than younger languages? Where do sign languages fall in such a spectrum? Does language age and/or structure correlate with cultural expressions of navigational thinking modes (route/landmark, or map, or configurational) like city/village/town design? Are configurational map makers more or less fluent in their own language than route/landmark navigators? Do they learn other languages more or less easily than other navigational types?
Does spatial thinking correlate with language ability in any other ways?

[Two books – The Math Gene by Keith Devlin and Talking Hands by Margalit Fox – and a New Yorker article about the Brazilian Pirahà tribe, along with my studies in urban design and readings in spatial cognition regarding navigation are mashed together in this line of questioning.]

Are there different ‘buffers’ for short term memory that correlate with perceptual modes like auditory and visual? If so, can they be used simultaneously? If they can, who uses them? Do people with well-developed spatial cognitive and navigational abilities (map or configurational) co-process more often than people with more basic skills (route/landmark)?

[I am curious about this because I have noticed that when I have many different numbers to remember I mentally ‘take a picture’ of some, and repeat others aloud. This seems to help me remember all of them and keep them straight.]

Do spatial thinking skills correlate with pattern recognition?

Some people with autism have a marked empathy for animals and a gift for communicating with them. What is the nature of this ability? Are animal whisperers conversant in or plugged into animal communication modes? Are these modes vestigial in humans? Does language overprint them, so that they only surface when language (or other) skills are absent/impaired? If these other modes exist in humans, are they and understandings derived from them what we label ESP?

[These ideas derive in part from the book Amazon Dreaming by Bill Keats, the film documentary Temple Grandin, and my own experiences with dogs ]

I pose these questions here as speculations and flights of fancy. Some of them may develop as time and interest permit, and rigorous research and critique allow. Those that do are likely subjects for future MUSE issues – stay tuned!
If you know of any work that bears on these questions please do let me know.


Just Jerusalem

Just Jerusalem



He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool.
Shun him.
He who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is a child.
Teach him.
He who knows, and knows not that he knows, is asleep.
Wake him.
He who knows, and knows that he knows, is wise.
Follow him.

– Apophthegm, from the Persian, Sanskrit, Chinese



This proposal for a video game and associated reality television show was submitted to the 2007 Just Jerusalem competition sponsored by MIT’s Jerusalem 2050 program, a joint initiative sponsored by the Department of Urban Studies and the Center for International Studies.


Public Space in the New American City

Public Space in the New American City

Here is a recreation of my prize-winning submission for the design competition Public Space in the New American City, held in Atlanta, Georgia in 1994. The original entry for site C comprised a site model and boards, which no longer exist. I’ve included here photos of the model, a site map, and explanatory text from the boards.

  • Atlanta-01A_small
  • Atlanta-01B_small
  • Atlanta-02A_small
  • Atlanta-02B_small

One story that can be told of any city is that of its growth, through the lenses of transportation and information flow. Atlanta by example, developed as a place at a crossroads, a nexus for travel, exchange of goods and of information. These impeti reinforced each other, and stimulated further growth and connections, at larger and larger scales until the smallest most local scale is lost: pedestrian movement. Can we imagine a future city, reclaimed by pedestrians, where electronic information flow is maximized, and the movement of goods and people by roadway is consequently minimized – where vehicular travel is unnecessary and obsolete?

Permanent photomural sculptures are to be installed on islands adjacent to on-off ramps in an American city, whose urban fabric has been destroyed or eroded by the building of state and interstate highways, in such a way as to make pedestrian movement difficult, unpleasant, insensible, or impossible. As a way to emphasize the spatial disintegration of place, the narrative told with the photomurals is primarily sequential, linear, and chronological, as in the history of the city, or even the history of the neighborhood impacted by the encroaching roadways. Atlanta is used as the example here.

The photomurals are larger than billboards – say, three stories tall, with lengths that vary depending on the image depicted, from 100 to 200 feet. These images pertinent to the history of Atlanta present information, fragmented and rather inaccessible (certainly to pedestrians), like the spaces they inhabit. The panels are physically misaligned so that each visual is read completely only from a singular vantage point. With intended symmetry, this vantage point provides a sensible view of only one photo – one piece of information. Ideally,the visual access points do not occur along any continuous route. In order to view all the images, a driver would have to make navigational decisions contrary to any sense of departure and arrival; this is especially true if the images are to be viewed chronologically. What is known about the history of Atlanta, then, depends on physical location accessible by automobile only, and only randomly. Chronology is absent in any linear way. Space and information are collaged, and comprehension requires a gestalt experience.

To enrich the historical experience paving changes are introduced along various routes to simulate recall evoke eras and changes: Native American forest pathways, dirt roads, cobbles, train tracks, and roadway and airstrip surfaces, sidewalks, and lawn. These, of course, occur randomly on the site, not tied spatially or temporally to the photomurals. They are distributed in such a way, however, that they are sensible to pedestrians when the city retreats, and the urban fabric is restored.




Just for fun, here’s a British English accent/dialect gradient I noticed, by watching British crime dramas ….

Shetland – Shetland Islands
George Gently – Northumberland
Happy Valley – Yorkshire
Life on Mars – Manchester
Hinterland – Wales
Inspector Morse – Oxford
Prime Suspect – London
Foyle’s War – Sussex
Broadchurch – Dorset

And have a listen at British Library Sounds for even more samples of all varieties of the Queen’s English. The conversations are fascinating.

If you are a British crime drama buff, Timothy J. Barron has compiled an exhaustive catalogue, with some reviews and recommendations.




Landscape design media comprise those graphic and spatial models used to generate imagined landscapes and to represent finished designs. But many of these traditional devices are insufficient for their purposes and/or inappropriately used, limiting conceptualization, understanding, and communication. This thesis critiques the uses of traditional representational media and proposes alternatives, relying on insights from architectural and landscape criticism, environmental psychology, cognitive science, and art history. Collage is one proposed new medium tested here for representing landscape to communicate design intent to the non-expert. Expert and non-expert comparative understanding of collage, orthographic drawing, and plan was assessed by questionnaire. Experimental results of this pilot study suggest that collage is appropriate for use by professional landscape architects to communicate type of place, user, activity and experiential aspects of design to non- experts, in conjunction with labeled orthographic drawings that show spatial information, structures, and activity locations. Collage and orthographic illustrations are best understood when viewed together, either as two separate illustrations or as a hybrid form. Further studies are needed to test the efficacy of collage for communicating user and activity aspects of design to non-experts across culture, age, and gender. Studies of paired illustrations (collage + architectural drawing) and hybrid variations are needed. In addition, studies are needed to test the efficacy of collage for communicating other aspects of contemporary landscape design, such as temporality, dynamism, and process, as well as acoustic, tactile, cognitive, and intuitive qualities of landscape.

You can read my full thesis here:
Communicating Landscape Design Intent to the Non-Expert: Small Experiments Using Collage

Two interesting publications that cite my work:
The Sustainable Sites Handbook: A Complete Guide to the Principles, Strategies, and Best Practices for Sustainable Landscapes
Chapter 7 Human Health and Well-being for Sustainable Sites

A Perpetual Pride
by Luke Whitaker

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