How we design: Collage as an optimistic act

“A picture of pieces is not a technical definition of ‘collage’ or ‘Cubism’ to be sure, but suggests of a whole range of artistic engagement that attempts, by some kind of reordering, to tell a different story of the world than The One That Is.” – Phil Henry

I have many binders full of paper scraps of all kinds – magazine clippings, album liner notes, color samples, campaign stickers, postcards, you name it. For the most part the binders sit on the shelf and I add to them on a regular basis. But occasionally I take them them down and spread the papers all over the floor to begin a collage. Inspiration comes by way of sifting, sorting, absorbing, and reordering until the kernel of a theme takes shape. It is a free and unscripted process, but somewhere along the way a narrative forms. Detritus becomes desideratum.

Collage is an optimistic process of creation that sidesteps linear thought. It helps us relate incongruent things to one another. Through collage, suddenly fashion meets horticulture, cuisine meets car commercials, dissimilar cultures see eye to eye over a similar color palette. Elements of natural and designed landscapes disproportionately catch my eye, but I often try to populate a scene with snippets from advertising or pop culture perhaps as a way of asking “what if?”.

What if? Those two words may be the most potent guardian of the youthful creativity that lives in all of us. As landscape architects and designers, we hope to inspire this way of thinking, and collage is the perfect medium to do so. In the age of Pinterest and other digital media, this process can often get lost when we perform search queries for what we think we want. In contrast, we at BASE think it is essential to work with our hands and occasionally let our narrative reveal itself toward the World That Could Be. I hope you enjoy these collage exercises; I certainly enjoyed making them.