Visual Resource Stewardship Conference

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 10-27-2019


This paper presents a study of the spatial experience of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway through the use of repetitive and systematic cross-sections as an analytic tool. The sectional study is part of a cultural landscape report for the parkway, and it complements map-based and plan analyses that examined regional contexts,forest character, planted vegetation, structures, and small-scale features.

The Baltimore-Washington Parkway was constructed in the early 1950s and is considered a transitional parkway, a hybrid of earlier scenic parkways and later modern highways. It is historically significant for its role in the preservation of significant tracts of forest and because it shows that a conventional modern highway alignment can become a parkway rather than a mere highway through careful design of structures, vegetation and small-scale features. Spatial sequencing is also part of this parkway vocabulary, but it is harder to document than the other ‘things’ like bridges, guard walls and forests.

To document and assess spatial sequence, we constructed sections at half mile increments along the full 19-mile length of the parkway, recording topography, forest edge conditions, planted vegetation, mowed grass, and open space in each section. The following issues are discussed: - The value of a quick, ‘draft’ version to test the method - Spacing of the sections - Use of Google maps street view coupled with field verification - Balancing realistic representation with ease of production - Use of graphic ‘modules’ to represent recurring conditions We compiled sections at two scales to reveal different aspects of the spatial experience. At 1:70, they document two-mile sequences of the driving experience and were used to identify spatial conditions that characterize each segment. At 1:200 they were overlaid on maps (1:2000) to reveal distinct spatial sequences in the landscape, and these became key determinants of character areas. The findings in the analysis informed design recommendations focused on differentiating spatial experience in places with long, unchanging sequences.