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BY ZACH MORTICE

Image courtesy of the collection of Nicholas de Monchaux.

California is omnipresent in the world of science fiction. George Lucas filmed Star Wars: A New Hope in Death Valley, and the redwood forests of northern California sat in for the forest moon of Endor in Return of the Jedi. Perhaps the most influential sci-fi document in terms of futurist urbanism, Blade Runner, showed us the megacity Los Angeles with its rain and neon-slicked streets unmistakably reminiscent of a polyglot Chinatown. Larry Niven’s Ringworld books drew their prescription for a sun-orbiting space station—a million miles tall and 600 million miles across—from California’s own impressive history of infrastructural development.

Because of its historic reputation as the final, unspoiled end to the American Western horizon, California has always looked ahead into bracingly new futures. But as espoused by a studio to be taught at the University of California, Berkeley College of Environmental Design, unpacking California’s contributions to sci-fi urbanism and landscapes is also a look back.  BLDGBLOG’s Geoff Manaugh and the Berkeley architecture and urban design professor Nicholas de Monchaux will lead this Studio ONE master’s program, which will begin next school year.

“We have already terraformed one world whether we like it or not,” says de Monchaux. “We are living science fiction to some extent. We might as well acknowledge it and mine it.” Their studio asks: (more…)

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REVIEWED BY GALE FULTON, ASLA

Landscape Architecture and Digital Technologies: Re-Conceptualising Design and Making

From the October 2016 Issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine

 

Warning: possible confirmation bias ahead.

One of the most perplexing aspects of landscape architecture education and practice that I’ve encountered is what I’ll grossly refer to here as representation. In the nearly two decades that I’ve been a student, professional, or involved in some capacity with teaching at the university level, I can think of no other domain as consistently polarizing than the critically important area of how landscape architects generate and communicate their ideas. Perhaps the most pernicious aspect of this issue is the ongoing divide between digital and analog processes—using the computer versus hand drawing. At first glance, one may likely assume this issue to simply be generational—older generations of designers were not educated in the use of the computer and so are less accepting of it than of those techniques and media with which they were trained. But, surprisingly, there seems to be a continued skepticism or distancing from advanced computational processes even by those of the postdigital generations, which is much more troubling given that these will be the future leaders of the discipline, and, as the authors of this book so effectively demonstrate, not embracing the digital in a robust way at this point significantly reduces the potential of the discipline to have the type of impact it aspires to have.

Landscape Architecture and Digital Technologies: Re-Conceptualising Design and Making, by Jillian Walliss and Heike Rahmann, both academics based in Australia, is a well-reasoned, well-written, and at times polemical book. It critiques landscape architecture’s failure to more fully embrace the potentials of digital media. It educates readers about the ways designers are using sophisticated digital processes right now in very real professional and academic projects and research. And it aspires for landscape architecture to leverage digital technology (more…)

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BY BRIAN BARTH

Landscape architects feel the push of architecture-centric software.

Landscape architects feel the push of architecture-centric software.

From the February 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

Building information modeling, or BIM, has become the default digital format for designing buildings, bridges, and other infrastructure the world over, though in theory it is just as applicable to landscape design. You are not likely to find an architecture or engineering firm that does not employ BIM software, but there are surprisingly few landscape architecture firms that do. It’s not that landscape architects don’t appreciate the information-rich approach of BIM—quite the contrary—but many loathe its building-centric nature.

“Landscape architecture as a profession is kind of down on BIM,” says James Sipes, a landscape architect based in Atlanta who was an early proponent of adapting the technology for landscape architecture purposes. “It seemed to be exactly what we were looking for—that combination of CAD and 3-D modeling and smart software that linked things together in the way we as landscape architects design.” But, Sipes says, companies like Autodesk, which publishes Revit, a BIM software used widely by architects, “put a lot of time and energy into building BIM data for buildings and building components, but none of that had anything to do with landscape architecture.”

All of which would be fine if landscape architects weren’t being pulled into (more…)

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