Bruce Sharky, professor emeritus of landscape architecture, has recently published a new book titled Hidden in Plain Sight: Theory and Practical Principles Employing Shadows for Creating Memorable Landscapes.
The subject of this book is shadows, shadows in outdoor spaces. The author explores how shadows contribute to plant texture, and then many less considered aspects of shadows such as how the experiential impact shadows affect our visual and cognitive experience of space. The work draws from many sources, foremost from the treatise on shadows by Leonardo da Vinci as well as art theory, cinematography, and psychology. Discussion surveys how shadows can advance a narrative in space, drawing from art theory and cinema. Shadows, like music, are used to contribute to a mood and dramatic scenes especially in art-noire cinema. The text is richly supported by over one-hundred color images taken of projects visited in a wide range of countries by Sharky.
“To most people, the visual richness of shadows that effect our experience, while in plain sight, does not necessarily register in conscious,” Sharky said. “We see them but at the same time do not make special notice. We are conscious of the vegetation, architecture forms, and ground surfaces. If one visited a memorable space the discussion afterwards would focus on the architecture and maybe the plants.
The performance in an outdoor theater played out by ephemeral qualities of shadow and light on the surfaces do not standout in what we see in spaces. ‘See’ in terms of we are conscious or what our eyes take in. We don’t necessarily take notice or are cognizant of the effects and meaning light and shadow add to our experience. For the most part the designer of the spaces—outdoor spaces—probably did not specifically apply the potential of light and shadows in their design concept.
“The designer might consider the potential of sunlight when selecting plant species based on their sunlight or shade tolerances. The fact that the patterns of sunlight and shadow exist, no matter how fleeting, can by careful observation and experience be incorporated in design thinking and the design process. Painters and other studio artists have done the hard work of observation that then informs and definitely helps produce the narrative in the work,” he said.
Published by Sentia Publishing in Austin, TX, the book is available on Amazon.