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BY HANIYA RAE

Technology helps shape what hardscapes can be.

FROM THE DECEMBER 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Courtney Goode was working on a project in Houston when Hurricane Harvey hit. Buffalo Bayou, one of the slow-moving rivers that Houston relies upon to hold stormwater, flooded, and the waters would end up spilling out over the city’s aging infrastructure and impermeable surfaces, exacerbating the problem.

“My heart was in my throat,” Goode says. “We had been working on these super-detailed axonometric drawings of all angles of the city—we knew the city like the back of our eyelids. It was a total shock to see the bayous obliterated and murky, debris-filled water covering the walkways, roads, and even ground floors of the buildings near the bayou. The flood just engulfed everything we had been designing.”

For Goode, a landscape designer in Sasaki’s Urban Studio and a Fabrication Studio coordinator, the disaster afforded her a very real account of how the city managed stormwater and led her to think more about how low-impact development can divert stormwater from streets during flooding. She describes a scenario in which a city like Houston could divert some of the excess water by excavating 40-foot-deep gravel dry wells (the size of a typical four-story parking garage) topped off with permeable pavers that could hold excess rainwater until it’s able to seep back into the ground. (more…)

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BY SARAH COWLES

Bay Area landscape studios team with local artisans to evolve CNC-fabricated site elements.

FROM THE AUGUST 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Alcatraz keeps disappearing, but not because of sea-level rise. “Alcatraz Island has been stolen, replaced, and stolen again,” says Nicholas Gotthardt, a senior associate at Surfacedesign in San Francisco. The irresistible Alcatraz is one element of a large topographic model of San Francisco’s Golden Gate headlands that anchors the visitor overlook at Fort Point National Historic Site, where Surfacedesign was part of a team that designed new site amenities completed in 2014.

The model, made of finely detailed precast concrete, is a literal touchstone at the overlook, which offers dramatic views to the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay, as well as a rest stop for cyclists and hikers. Gotthardt recalls the impetus for creating the model: “We wanted to design an interpretive piece that wasn’t signage and words. We wanted something tactile—something people could touch.” Gotthardt had honed his digital modeling skills in the fabrication lab at the Ohio State University’s Master of Landscape Architecture program. With the Fort Point project, he found an opportunity to apply those skills, including fabrication using computer numerical control, or CNC, at the site scale. “The idea of a pancake topo model as the centerpiece of this small urban space came from the officewide comment that ‘We should build more models!’ There isn’t always the time or resources in practice to get into physical modeling the same way that you get to do in school.”

Today both undergraduate and graduate landscape programs provide training and facilities in CNC fabrication, including five-axis mills for sculpting wood and foam, 3-D printers, and laser cutters. Yet this new generation of graduates, facile with the work flow producing CNC models in the design studio, often finds it difficult to ply these skills once they reach (more…)

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BY BRIAN BARTH

One practitioner defies the handicaps of building Information modeling for landscape, determined not to remain an exception.

FROM THE AUGUST 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Meghen Quinn, ASLA, has a secret. BIM—an acronym that puts moonbeams in the eyes of architects, but makes some landscape architects cringe—is her software of choice. BIM, shorthand for building information modeling, is the 3-D, data-rich software platform embodied by Revit, a product launched in 2000 by Charles River Software and acquired by Autodesk two years later. By 2012, 70 percent of architecture firms in North America reported using BIM, and in 2016 the American Institute of Architects reported that BIM was used for nearly 100 percent of projects at large firms.

It seems that so few landscape architects use BIM, however, that no one has ever bothered to collect the data. Its reputation in the field is as a clunky, building-centric, overly complex tool that has put up yet another barrier between landscape designers and architects.

Yet Quinn, who merged her San Francisco practice with the Office of Cheryl Barton in January, is all moonbeams. Well, mostly. “I never want to use CAD again,” she says. “Moving to BIM is like (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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