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Posts Tagged ‘Computation’

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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This presentation of the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) Realities and Realms colloquium examines how landscape architecture is ingesting computation, robotics, and the reams of data that designed environments now produce second by second. In two lecture videos titled Realities and Realms: Responsive Technologies in Ecological Systems, the GSD invites practitioners, researchers, and academics to envision how “anthropogenic perception and technological mediation” will meet in landscape design. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

An abandoned island is the Venice Lagoon. Local Code by Nicholas de Monchaux, published by Princeton Architectural Press 2016.

An abandoned island in the Venice lagoon. Local Code by Nicholas de Monchaux, published by Princeton Architectural Press, 2016.

In his new book, Local Code: 3,659 Proposals About Data, Design, and the Nature of Cities, the University of California, Berkeley architecture and urban design professor Nicholas de Monchaux develops new tools for the mass customization of underused and vacant urban lots, highlighting the limits of inflexible systems thinking. His book charts a way forward with an eye on past failures, and new possibilities founded in corrective measures that have proved to work.

American cities’ first encounters with data, he writes, happened after World War II. That’s when protocomputing power, developed by the military and Cold War consultancies such as the RAND Corporation, merged with tabula rasa modernist urban planning. These binary solutions to complex built environments (remembered most vividly as Robert Moses-style urban renewal that tore down anything old and dirty) became what de Monchaux calls (more…)

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