Digital Landscape Architecture Conference Coming to Harvard GSD

by Stephen M. Ervin

DLA2022’s keynote speakers are Mirka Beneš of the University of Texas at Austin, Anya Domlesky, ASLA, Director of Research at SWA Group, and Mitchell Joachim of Terreform ONE / NYU. / image: DLA Conference

Digital Landscape Architecture (DLA) Conference
June 9-10, 2022
Online and in-person at the Graduate School of Design (GSD), Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

Just three years ago, I attended the Digital Landscape Architecture Conference for the first time, when it was held in Dessau, Germany, home of the Bauhaus. At that time, I was invited to speak about BIM in landscape architecture and was amazed by the diverse audience present to listen, see, and engage. With eyes wide open, I too learned a great deal from faculty, students, practitioners, and various technology leaders. Soon after this experience, our Digital Technology PPN was asked to help spread the word about the following conference, to take place in the US, at Harvard GSD. Though COVID changed the dynamic for a couple of years, the conference retooled and continued virtually. As this year’s conference theme “Hybrid” describes the split nature of learning and disseminating presented information, it also translates to how our practice, research, and connectedness has quickly adapted and evolved to stay ahead of the new directions of the industry. I invite you to consider the announcement below by fellow DLA colleague, Stephen Ervin, and sincerely consider joining the conference either virtually or in-person to learn where digital technology in landscape architecture is heading next.
–Eric Gilbey, PLA, ASLA, Digital Technology Professional Practice Network (PPN) Immediate Past Chair

In 2020, the 21st international meeting of the Digital Landscape Architecture (DLA) Conference was scheduled to come to the US for the first time ever, to Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD)—after having been in Europe, mostly at the Hochschule Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, near Berlin, Germany, for the previous two decades.

Of course, the 2020 conference, planned for June of that year, was dramatically disrupted by the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Harvard along with much of the US was locked down, and the conference was held from my home office, entirely on Zoom, then a still-new experience for many of us.

The DLA Conference attracts a mix of landscape architecture academics, researchers, students, practitioners, allied professionals, technologists, scholars, and interested lay people from all over the world (in 2021 participants represented 45+ countries worldwide!). And since 2016, the conference proceedings have been published as the Journal of Digital Landscape Architecture (JoDLA), available online as PDF articles. The DLA Conferences have often been held on the campus of the Bauhaus, in nearby Dessau—the World Heritage Site home of modernist architecture and design. The visionary architect Walter Gropius was the director of the Bauhaus in its most impactful era, in the 1930s, before he left Germany just before World War II, came to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and became the head of the Architecture Department at the GSD at Harvard University.

130 landscape architects from 30 countries attended the 20th Digital Landscape Architecture Conference in 2019. / image: DLA Conference

The links between Harvard and the DLA Conference go back to its beginnings in 1999, in Germany, when visiting Professors Stephen Ervin and Carl Steinitz, Hon. ASLA, were both in attendance. In the last decade, the conference venue has become more varied, and DLA has been held in Weinstephan, Germany, Zurich, Switzerland, and Istanbul, Turkey, in intervening years. But never yet in the United States…until now!

The 23rd DLA Conference, DLA2022, is scheduled for June 9-10, 2022, hosted at the GSD and online (and once again, unfortunately, amid the uncertainties of post-pandemic restrictions and travel complications).

The theme of the conference this year is ‘HYBRID,’ a recognition not only of the now-ubiquitous partly-online, partly-in-person hybrid conference and presentation format, but more broadly of the hybridization of the analog and the digital that is transforming society, education, landscape architectural practice, and research, with ‘smart’ cars, homes, cities, landscapes, forests, and gardens being prominent artifacts of this transformation. The conference is planned to be fully hybrid in format, with some number of attendees in-person at the GSD (travel and other conditions permitting), and likely a larger number of online attendees, from around the world, via the new Zoom Events platform.

An upcoming cover of the Journal of Digital Landscape Architecture (JoDLA) illustrates changing themes in the publication 2016-2021. / image: DLA Conference

More than 60+ speakers will present on a range of topics, in categories including:

  • Algorithmic design and analysis of landscapes
  • Data science and landscape information modelling
  • Drone/UAV imagery and uses
  • Mixed reality (AR/VR) and immersive environments
  • Geodesign approaches, technologies, and case studies
  • Digital landscape architectural responses to climate change

All speakers will be accompanied by short video presentations, planned to remain available after the conference.

Three dynamic keynote speakers will inspire and anchor discussions at the conference:

  • Mirka Benes, PhD, from the University of Texas at Austin, a distinguished historian, teacher, and expert on hybridity in landscape architecture;
  • Anya Domlesky, ASLA, an urban designer and landscape architect who is Director of Research of the XL Innovation Lab at SWA; and
  • Mitchell Joachim, visionary urbanist and NYU professor, who explores “the socio-ecological capabilities of habitats, urban spaces, and landscapes across the planet.”

Together, they will represent the three essential and overlapping categories of academia, practice, and research, which make up the core of the DLA undertaking.

Virtual software tutorials presented by DLA sponsors from the software industry, including Landsdesign, LANDAU, Laubwerk, Rhino, and Vectorworks, will be offered for attendees before and after the conference.  Special discount registration fees are offered to students and recent graduates, and ASLA/affiliated members. It is anticipated that Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System (LA CES) continuing education credits will available for ASLA/affiliated members, both in-person and online.

An annual student poster competition will feature creative works by students from around the world, addressing many imaginative dimensions of hybrid digital landscape architecture. And if public health and weather conditions permit, in-person attendees will enjoy a sunset barbecue banquet with live music, in the GSD courtyard, on Thursday night, June 9.

The conference organizers are eager to attract members of the design community, including academics, practitioners, researchers, and allied professionals, either in-person if possible, or online!

For more information, see or email

Stephen M. Ervin, MLA, PhD, is Assistant Dean for Information Technology at Harvard Design School, Director of Computer Resources, and lecturer in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and the DLA2022 Conference Chair.

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