Bike to Work Day / Bike to Fun Day!

image: KTU+A

image: KTU+A

Using digital technologies to promote our ideals can be fun and easy—this ranges from infographics to timelapse photography. Check out the following use as documented by San Diego firm KTU+A in their blog. Hopefully this will inspire you to use technology to promote your next professional message!

On May 30, 2014, KTU+A hosted its annual Bike to Work Day Pit Stop on the corner of Normal Street and University Avenue in the San Diego neighborhood of Hillcrest. Over 230 bike commuters stopped by for snacks and giveaways, the largest turnout in the past five years. In addition to the Pit Stop, KTU+A conducted a tactical urbanism display on Normal Street by taking over five parking spaces for a parklet with tables, chairs, bean bag toss games, and a yoga session. The large paved median on Normal Street was used to showcase the size of the underutilized space by laying out sports fields as examples of its sheer size.

For more on KTU+A’s involvement in Bike to Work Day, see the post published on the KTU+A blog, and check out the infographic and video re-posted below.

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Digital Technology at ASLA 2013

3DS Max and Vue Animation image: David Leonard and Matt Wilkens, KTU+A

3DS Max and Vue Animation
image: David Leonard and Matt Wilkens, KTU+A

We are all very excited for the upcoming ASLA Annual Meeting in Boston! This past year, digital technologies have greatly modified the way we do business, and many of these new technologies will be featured at this year’s Annual Meeting. Outlined below are a few of our favorite picks for educational sessions and vendor booths to stop by and learn a thing or two. The education offerings span the spectrum from hand-drawn graphic integration, to CAD, to 3D technologies, to Geodesign—a hot topic for this year.

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What makes it ‘geodesign’?

A Framework for Geodesign: Changing Geography by Design 2012, showing the four necessary components of geodesign. image: Carl Steinitz

A Framework for Geodesign: Changing Geography by Design, showing the four necessary components of geodesign.
image: Carl Steinitz

The term “geodesign” has some amount of buzz around it. For example, there is a Wikipedia entry; the University of Southern California offers a “Bachelor of Science in Geodesign” major; Penn State Online offers a “Graduate Certificate in Geodesign”; Carl Steinitz recently published his book “A Framework for Geodesign: Changing Geography by Design”; and so on.  This is still within a small community, mind you, ask most of your friends if they have heard of ‘geodesign’, or what it might be, and you get (or at least I usually do) mostly puzzled looks.

I’ve been listening, and contributing, to the conversation that gave birth to the term for some time. Last year, in a talk at the ESRI User’s Conference in San Diego, I said “When I first heard the term I felt like I had been using it for a long time – though of course I hadn’t.”  I argued then that geodesign may be “the computer-aided design some of us have been imaging, wishing for, and working on, for many years” — making reference to the common somewhat mundane use of the term ‘CAD’ to mean simply “drawing with computers”, rather than the more ambitious “aiding design”.

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Digital Sandbox: a new mentoring paradigm?

The Landscape Architecture Sampler: have students ever wondered what it might be like to work here, in the Empty Quarter, in Southwest Asia? image: Flaherty

The Landscape Architecture Sampler: have students ever wondered what it might be like to work here, in the Empty Quarter, in Southwest Asia?
image: Flaherty

Mentoring needs digital facilitation.

This is a brief review of how time, cost, and quality issues have impacted education and the practitioners’ offices in the past decade or so.  Schools have been pressured to streamline, yet teach more.  Practitioners’ offices have been pressured to help with education, yet reduce overheads.  Who loses?  Everybody, especially the students. Though internships help, they only give a narrow window for viewing and learning over a short period of time.  I contend that the pressures, both in education and also in practitioners’ offices, combine to negatively influence the next generation of landscape architects.  The students end up poorly informed and weak when it comes to two critical categories: what they want to do and how can they reach that goal.

The weakness comes from an insufficient understanding of how the profession works, how a project evolves, and how the work advances over time in the practitioners’ offices.  This is not a new problem, but it is an exacerbated problem these days.  How to correct this?  Digitally facilitated mentoring.

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Futuristic Preservation

Study model for the Living Museum at Atturaif, a UNESCO World Heritage site northwest of Riyadh and site of the Saudi capital in the 18th century  image: Ayers Saint Gross Inc.

Study model for the Living Museum at Atturaif, a UNESCO World Heritage site northwest of Riyadh and site of the Saudi capital in the 18th century
image: Ayers Saint Gross Inc.

Point Cloud Surveys of Historic Landscapes

When the US Secretary of the Interior first introduced the Standards and Guidelines for Architectural and Engineering Documentation: HABS/HAER  in 1983, Ronald Reagan was in the White House and most of us did not yet know how to type—let alone know how to work on a PC.  This document was formulated in a pre-digital age and is, not-surprisingly, pre-digital in orientation; specifying such parameters for the documentation of historic structures as the use of black and white photography, the requisite submission of film negatives and consistency of hand-lettering.  Today, some of the specific requirements seem almost quaint: “Level I measured drawings will be lettered mechanically (i.e., Leroy or similar) or in a hand printed equivalent style.”  Incidentally, these standards served as a prototype for the Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) when it was initiated in 2000.

In the decades since 1983, we have witnessed a revolution in Information Technology.  It has resulted in fundamental changes to the way that disciplines such as landscape architecture and history are practiced.  In the 1990s, Computer-Aided Design transformed the workflow of landscape architectural practice from design and documentation through construction.  A second wave of transformation has arrived with Building Information Management (BIM) / Site Information Management (SIM) applications and is beginning to transform the roles of designer and contractor in project delivery.  In the study of history today, the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for research and analysis is not uncommon.  Other new technologies and software applications are now emerging with the potential to transform a wide array of disciplines from ecology to historic preservation.   What follows is a discussion of one of these tools in particular—the digital “Point Cloud Survey”—and a review of its use in the context of a preservation and adaptive reuse project in Saudi Arabia.

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It’s a 3D Model, what’s the difference?

Fiesta Island Running Trail, generated in Visual Nature Studioimage: David Leonard

Fiesta Island Running Trail, generated in Visual Nature Studio
image: David Leonard

Land planning and design are highly driven by the need for schematic designs, but understanding the best methods and tools to reflect these schemes can be daunting. Technology continues to advance at an accelerated rate and we must stay up to speed on these changes in order to most appropriately accomplish the task at hand. 3D technologies have emerged over the past two decades increasing our ability to create stunning images of our visions, but are we using the tools correctly?

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Confessions of a Dinosaur

Perspective sketch by the author for a recent project
image: PRI

CAD is the worst thing to happen to the landscape architecture profession.

There, I said it.

I feel better already.

I’m sure there were some who said the same thing when tree stamps, Kroy machines, and the overlay method of drafting arrived on the scene.  Each has come and gone and the profession has survived.  CAD, however, is a little more insidious, because I believe it has not only changed how we represent our ideas, but how we think of them.

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