Posts Tagged ‘Bradley Cantrell’

LIVE AND LEARN

BY MIMI ZEIGER

Algorithms are bringing new kinds of evidence and predictive powers to the shaping of landscapes.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Tree. Person. Bike. Person. Person. Tree. Anya Domlesky, ASLA, an associate at SWA in Sausalito, California, rattles off how she and the firm’s innovation lab team train a computer to recognize the flora and fauna in an urban plaza.

The effort is part of the firm’s mission to apply emergent technologies to landscape architecture. In pursuing the applied use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, the research and innovation lab XL: Experiments in Landscape and Urbanism follows a small but growing number of researchers and practitioners interested in the ways the enigmatic yet ubiquitous culture of algorithms might be deployed in the field.

Examples of AI and machine learning are all around us, from the voice recognition software in your iPhone to the predictive software that drives recommendations for Netflix binges. While the financial and health care industries have quickly adopted AI, and use in construction and agriculture is steadily growing, conversations within landscape architecture as to how such tools translate to the design, management, and conservation of landscapes are still on the periphery for the field. This marginality may be because despite their everyday use, mainstream understandings of AI are clouded by clichés—think self-actualized computers or anthropomorphic robots. In a recent essay on Medium, Molly Wright Steenson, the author of Architectural Intelligence: How Designers and Architects Created the Digital Landscape (The MIT Press, 2017), argued that we need new clichés. “Our pop culture visions of AI are not helping us. In fact, they’re hurting us. They’re decades out of date,” she writes. “[W]e keep using the old clichés in order to talk about emerging technologies today. They make it harder for us to understand AI—what it is, what it isn’t, and what impact it will have on our lives.”

So then, what is a new vision—a vision of AI for landscape? (more…)

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University of Virginia Landscape Architecture Chair Bradley Cantrell, ASLA, sees the future of landscape design as a spectrum of interactions between technologies that sense the environment, model and simulate it, and then finally affect the physical world—all without constant human input and monitoring. As argued in his March 13 LAM Lecture (and in his recent book Responsive Landscapes, written with Justine Holzman, ASLA), the future of landscape architecture is one of designing protocols for how natural systems behave, and tuning these algorithms and eventually the land itself, thus loosening the stranglehold static and monofunctional infrastructure has on the planet.  “It’s not about us controlling every aspect,” he says. “It’s about us setting a range of ways those behaviors can act within.”

Cantrell’s research is grounded in the previous century’s cutting-edge modeling and simulation methods, like the Army Corp of Engineers Mississippi River Basin Model in Clinton, Mississippi, which modeled the entire rivershed, scaled down to a mere 200 acres. From there, Cantrell details contemporary research that is equal parts computational and material, honing ever more granular data points toward more accurate models. For example, there’s USC Assistant Professor Alexander Robinson’s Office of Outdoor Research, Landscape Morphologies Lab work, which uses an articulated robot arm to scrape out dust-mitigating landforms at California’s Owens Lake. Cantrell’s own inquiries involve test bed river basin models that deposit sediment via the variable flow of water, which he has been able to manipulate as though it were a geologic 3-D printer, expanding and cutting back sediment deposit “land” where it’s desired. The resulting topographies are scanned and converted into point-cloud maps.

Cantrell’s approach pushes landscape architecture’s prevailing infrastructure fixation until it ricochets out of the physically imposing world of concrete and culverts and into abstract data, underpinning the omnipresent ways we reengineer ecologies with quantitative facts. The biggest challenge for modeling and simulating dynamic environments, Cantrell says, is not gathering all the requisite data, but getting it to interact in a way that matches reality. At its core, it’s a call for new levels of observational rigor: first, to observe all the factors that make an ecosystem function, and then to understand how those factors work together to create a landscape.

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Please pardon the fish smells. The landscape architects at Taylor Cullity Lethlean and Wraight + Associates were trying not to cutify the waterfront of Auckland, New Zealand, too much with their master plan for 86 acres of port. So you get a park, a promenade, a playground, and outdoor dining, but you also get the sights and smells of an active fishing sector and the noises of maritime industry up close. The North Wharf Promenade and Silo Park won the Rosa Barba Prize at the Eighth International Biennial of Landscape Architecture in Barcelona in 2014 for the ways it takes waterside work at face value but makes room for people to relax and play. Our correspondent in Sydney, Gweneth Leigh, ASLA, tells this month how it came together.

You may have read in the New York Times last week about China’s push to be first in the world in developing artificial intelligence systems for things like speech recognition, rescue missions, and warfare. The newly appointed chair of landscape architecture at the University of Virginia, Bradley Cantrell, ASLA, and two colleagues recently wrote a paper in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution about prospects for deploying AI and “deep learning” systems in ecological restoration and management, based on several approximate examples they found currently in action. LAM invited Kristina Hill, an associate professor of landscape architecture and environmental planning and urban design at the University of California, Berkeley, to query the authors’ assumptions and, ultimately, ethical questions around such projected uses for AI, such as: Is a human-induced machine responsible for the effects of its actions, or is the human?

Back in 2008 the Atlanta BeltLine, the ambitious linear park planned to ring around the city, was just getting off the ground. LAM dispatched Jonathan Lerner to survey the role this unique trail might play. Today, big sections of it have been built—though it’s by no means complete—and enthusiasm for its impacts is far from universal. And Lerner has gone back to Atlanta to survey the victories, the asymmetries, and the mixed emotions surrounding the project.

In Books, don’t miss the review of two new books on logistics, by Gale Fulton, ASLA, an associate professor and chair of landscape architecture at the University of Tennessee, and what it reveals about the ways logistics not only shapes our landscapes, but has become them. The full table of contents for June can be found here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 700 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. You can also buy single digital issues for only $5.25 at Zinio or order single copies of the print issue from ASLA. Annual subscriptions for LAM are a thrifty $59 for print and $44.25 for digital. Our subscription page has more information on subscription options.

Keep an eye out here on the blog, on the LAM Facebook page, and on our Twitter feed (@landarchmag), as we’ll be ungating June articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “Ecology on Autopilot,” Bradley Cantrell, ASLA; “The Wharf at Work,” Simon Devitt; “A Thousand Moving Parts,” Jeff Keesee; “In Search Of,” Courtesy HBB Landscape Architecture/Jed Share Photography; “Tame the Sun,” Courtesy SWA Group; “Yonkers Uncorked,” Christopher St. Lawrence.

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BY JULIAN RAXWORTHY

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From the July 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

In my seminar on contemporary theories of landscape architecture at the University of Cape Town, I recently asked students, during the week allocated to discussing landscape urbanism, to choose a project from Africa that could be called “landscape urbanist.” One student chose the renovation of the Luanda waterfront in Angola. This project is an upgrade that could just as easily be described as conventional landscape architecture or urban design practice. That landscape urbanism seemed to just be landscape architecture to my students suggests how generic the term has become when considered in relation to implementation: It could be just about anything. Landscape urbanism is a vibe.

Landscape urbanism is an evocative term that has exercised great influence over academic design discourse in landscape architecture but has remained ambiguous in practical terms. One of its key propagandists, Charles Waldheim, Honorary ASLA, a professor at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, has attempted to provide a “general theory” for it in his new book Landscape as Urbanism, which, while engagingly going some of the way toward doing so, leaves the persistent question of “OK, but so what?” remaining.

Talking about landscape urbanism is more like (more…)

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