top of page

Re-visiting the Sublime

A Framework to Modern Sublime Landscapes

Caroline Barron

César Torres-Bustamante

March 2021

We live in a resource driven world, often resulting in abandoned landscapes which lack purpose. Many of these abandoned spaces are the product of resource extraction or industries that have since moved on leaving behind useless structures, littered landscapes, and/or toxic soil. Reclamation practices which address the aftermath of these altered spaces commonly default towards beautification through redevelopment or re-naturalization. However, this project examines the performative tools of a site’s innate aesthetics including those of decay. More specifically, through the theoretical lens of the sublime, reclamation can forge deep connections between user emotion, experience, and their surroundings environments.

Re-visiting the Sublime transforms sublime theory into a modernized framework for landscape architects to use to examine and evaluate abandoned spaces against sublime characteristics. These characteristics shape the ways in which people perceive and process their surroundings which, in turn, inspires intrigue and curiosity. This framework is meant to supply professionals with the necessary tools and knowledge to work with instead of against a site’s natural processes once it has been left behind and forgotten.



I grew up in Orange County and my passions lie in art, adventures, and I thrive in collaborative environments. While working with natural systems is at the forefront of my design process, I also love the emotional connection landscape architects can forge through unexpected intervention! I am looking to join a multi-disciplinary firm which welcomes different points of view. Collaborative thinking and lenses from different walks of life continually inspire innovation which is exactly what I hope to be a part of as my journey at Cal Poly comes to a close.

Theory and Analysis Framework

The foundation of Re-Visiting the Sublime lies upon an understanding of what the sublime is and how the theory applies to landscape architecture. Research then went into what role each of the 8 design elements play in user experience. Images 4 and 5 exemplify the final framework outcomes of color and texture. Analyzing the site through this sublime framework should be an added layer to typical site analysis for a greater understanding of potential opportunities.

Site 1 : Saltdale, CA

Located in the Mojave Desert, Saltdale once played a role as a lucrative salt-mining town; however, once the industry lost steam, miners moved elsewhere leaving behind abandoned structures and equipment. Contrasting Klau mine’s brownfield categorization and experiences dominated by man-made structures, Saltdale’s sublime nature can instead be found in its vast landscapes and temporal qualities.

Site 2 : Klau Mercury Mines, CA

Klau mine operated as a commercial mercury mine from 1868 to 1940. Listed in 2001 as a superfund site by the EPA, a $2 million clean-up project addressed acid mine drainage contaminating Las Tablas Creek as well as significant site safety issues. Klau mine eventually fell into ruin and was forgotten. As the environment slowly heals and contamination is handled properly, redesign through the lens of sublime theory reclaims the space for recreation and exploration.

bottom of page