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Serendipitous visual learning: forests and trees

Amazing things crop up on the internet, sometimes found serendipitously – with nary a memory of how they were stumbled in the first place.

For example, I came across a useful page from British Columbia’s Ministry of Forests and Range, specifically the Forest Practices Branch: check out the Visual Landscape Design – Interactive Multimedia Training Access Page, where (if you give them your name, real or not) you will gain access to 22 online mini-lessons on visual design. It’s an excellent tutorial on how to design forest harvesting practices that leave the landscape looking good, rather than bad.

IOW, it’s about how to cut trees without making the landscape look like a cat’s breakfast. And while some tree-preservationists might blanch at the suggestion of making clear-cuts look pretty, it’s a heck of a better strategy than leaving them ugly. (That said, I’m not endorsing destructive clear-cutting, and I want to see old-growth forests protected absolutely, but this government-produced tutorial is gold – and its lessons are transferable to many design questions.)

Here’s what you get on the Visual Landscape Design – Interactive Multimedia Training Access Page. The following lessons (each just a couple of minutes long) make up the “interactive multimedia” section:

Section 1 Introduction
1.01 Landscape Design and Why it is important

Section 2 Design Concepts and Principles
2.01 Basic Elements
2.02 Variable Elements
2.03 Organizing Principles
2.04 Spatial Cues
2.05 Challenge Questions

Section 3 Landscape Character Analysis
3.01 Landform Analysis
3.01b Marvinas Bay Landform Analysis
3.02 Feature Analysis
3.02b Midway Feature Analysis

Section 4 Design Applications
4.01 Design of Harvest Units
4.01b Nootka Island Harvest Unit
4.02 Design of Edges
4.03 Silvicultural Systems
4.04 Complete Pattern of Shapes
4.05 Challenge Questions
4.06 Design of Foreground Areas
4.07 Special Design Considerations
4.08a Visual Rehabilitation Harvesting
4.08b Visual Rehabilitation Reclamation
4.09 Challenge Questions

Section 5 Integrated Visual Design
5.01 Integrated Visual Design
Closing Remarks

In addition, the page lets you access a PDF library for downloading; it includes the following titles:

Visual Landscape Design Training Manual (170 pages)
Bear Lake Integrated Visual Design Plan (42 pages)
Economic Benefits of Managing Forestry and Tourism at Nimmo Bay (A Public Perception Study and Economic Analysis) (67 pages)
Visually Effective Greenup in British Columbia (A Public Perception Study) (61 pages)
Clearcutting and Visual Quality (A Public Perception Study) (37 pages)
Visual Impacts of Partial Cutting (Summary Report) (62 pages)
Predicting the Visual Impacts of Retention Cutting (3 pages)

Some of the documents are dated (mid- to late-90s). Since I haven’t read them, I can’t guarantee that they’re untainted by industry bull and/or greenwash, but I appreciate that the docs are available: they provide insight into how Forestry is being handled in BC. As for the design tutorial: it’s definitely worth studying – I’m viewing the 3rd Section now, and what it has to teach looks very transferable.

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