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Fischer, Joan (ed.) / Wisconsin people & ideas
Volume 52, Number 2 (Spring 2006)

King, Susan B.
Designing places: why words are not enough,   pp. 57-62

Page 57

The Town Center project in Delafield 
follows traditional design principles 
with rooflines and windows in harmony 
and similarly scaled buildings. It is one 
of many similar developments creating 
a strong sense of place in Delafield. 
Photos by Susan B. King unless otherwise noted 
City and town planners 
are rediscovering such 
visual and spatial 
design concepts as 
harmony, human scale, 
interconnection, and 
local character 
to create livable 
communities in 
A          PROFESSIONALLY TRAINED ARTIST recently conducted a brief 
workshop for a small committee charged with recommending 
development standards for new buildings near public land. The 
workshop required hands-on use of visual skills. Participants were 
encouraged not to discuss their views as they worked together, moving 
cardboard boxes of various sizes and colors, raffia (for landscaping), and
other elements into formations representing houses in the landscape. 
Although group members held 
differing opinions about Smart Growth 
and land use controls, the group's 
nonverbal choices during the exercise 
demonstrated a surprising and quick 
consensus about what looked good. 
When allowed to discuss their visual 
decisions, the participants found a 
vocabulary with words like harmony, 
consistency, relationships between 
buildings, proportion, repetition of 
color and of shape-all aesthetic terms. 
This surprised several participants, 
none of whom were designers, who 
concluded that visual concepts and 
tools might be useful in reaching agree- 
ment about land use issues. 
Psychologists have identified multiple 
forms of intelligence. Among the styles 
of learning identified by Howard 
Gardner, two are important for 
discussing land use-linguistic or 
verbal and spatial intelligence. Land use 
ordinances and statutes are usually 
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