Insight from the Inside: An Auto-Ethnographic Account of Design Synthesis in Landscape Architecture

Document Type : Original Article


1BC Consulting, Simpelveld, The Netherlands


This article investigates how moments of synthesis occur in a design process, since “synthesis” is a suggestive, yet ambiguous term. Due to this ambiguity, we require further investigation. The case study is the development of an integral landscape architecture vision for a municipality in Dutch Southern Limburg. The method used is auto-ethnography, or the description of design activities from a first-person viewpoint, which provides as it were “insight from the inside” by the designing mind. This method has the advantage that design thinking moves can be directly documented by the researcher-designer. Three specific drawings have been selected for analysis, as the processes of making them highlight how synthetic activities play out in the design process and how they influence thinking. The article identifies three moments of synthesis and highlights the contributing factors for each of them. One finding is that synthesis may be framed as the dynamic adaptation among design elements rather than an act of unification or assembly. The concluding section also critically reflects on the value of auto-ethnography for such processes and suggests further avenues of research.


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