Site design-does it matter?

Site design-does it matter? When? Where? Why? How? In the face of dire environmental challenges including climate change, extreme wealth disparity, political strife, in addition to the only increased demand on natural resources and productive capacities of regional landscapes, the value of site-scaled built works can not be taken for granted. It is appropriate to question the importance of devoting energies to crafting built landscapes, and yet we know that some of these places will help bring communities together, support individual recovery, create places of memory and perhaps even nurture the sublime-in short, some built landscapes do matter a great deal. This thesis stream focuses on advancing methods for more critically understanding ways in which landscapes are valued. Potential areas of study include: Theoretical analysis for ways in which value is identified in different ways and by various user groups. How much was this planned for versus evolved over time? What role is the history of the site? Critical case studies investigating sites recognized as being especially meaningful. How significant a factor is the formal design vis-a-vis management and stewardship? More projective explorations for applying lessons of past works to new contexts, expressing new models of place making. Who are currently underserved communities, and what are strategies for producing landscapes to benefit these groups?

East Java Studio: Landscape Strategies for the Urbanizing Tropics

In this studio, students considered landscape architecture’s capacity to engage with environments undergoing rapid change. Through map analysis and literature review, students revealed the ways in which landscape systems, cultural practices, and patterns of human settlement are intertwined, reflecting on the role of strategies and proposals to achieve alternate, more sustainable, more just outcomes. In particular, students examined the impact of modernization, development, and governance on determining natural and cultural landscapes. The study area, the Banyuwangi Regency at the eastern tip of East Java, is a territory that encompasses a dynamic volcanic landscape rich in biodiversity, agricultural productivity, and mineral resources, and is home to a culturally diverse community of some 1.6 million people, with a society built from old kingdoms and founded on Hindu and Islamic traditions and values, scattered across it in a complex ‘desakota’ system of urban-rural sprawl. As with much of Indonesia, it is a territory that is undergoing sudden and dramatic (post-Suharto) changes, modernization, commercialization and internationalization, brought on through urbanization, trade, resource exploitation and tourism. Drawing on current landscape planning and urbanism theory, including critiques of sustainability, ecological urbanism, and green infrastructure, students looked first to understand and document this landscape through its physical components, its systems, flows, assets (and liabilities), actors, patterns and trends, etc. Later exercises developed a strategic landscape section/transect summarizing the physical, hydrological, and socio- economic considerations anticipating any intervention. Finally, students worked to develop specific projects through which portions of an intervention strategy might be realized. Critical to this studio was a week-long study visit during which students and instructors toured the region, meeting local communities and government representatives to understand the region and its landscape systems, and to identify specific points of intervention.

Landscapes of Flux and Demand: Anticipating Change at Hong Kong’s Soko Islands

Landscapes change. Their internal dynamics, usage and roles, and relationship to, and impacts from, external contexts are all in a constant state of flux. Landscape designers and planners are inserted into this mix of processes, called upon to recognize functions, and anticipate future effects, all while helping craft a vision for how discrete actions can help create desirable results. These forces are present within even the smallest of sites, but are of even greater importance when operating within larger landscapes composed of distinct layers of ecology, geology, culture, and even economic potential. This studio explored design strategies that were responsive to anticipated environmental and societal change, making use of Hong Kong’s remote Soko Islands as a study site. Students related in-person observations with more conventional research findings to build determinate representations of dynamic systems. They investigated strategies for how design has engaged with biophysical systems in case study sites, mapped spatial consequences of competing land use goals, and ultimately developed design propositions that drew from preceding analysis and projection to take the form of specific site-scaled interventions.

Design Implementation

At the core of the discipline of landscape architecture is an ongoing challenge of translating design notions to built works; for turning ideas into projects. A multitude of individuals are necessarily involved in this execution, with everyone from a client to contractor and on to various governing authorities having some role to play, even as a collection of greater forces within the economic, cultural and climatic contexts invoke a profound influence potentially far beyond the scope of any independent entity. Better understanding the interplay of individual, context and process can, it is posited, inform design operations and lead to improved success in achieving project goals. This thesis stream focuses on advancing methodologies for developing, critiquing, and innovating on design implementation strategies. Potential areas of study include: Developments in construction technologies and their impact on design capability; Post occupancy evaluation and the relationship between anticipated and actual usage; Material technologies, their selection as design elements and weathering properties in different climatic conditions; and Role of landscape architecture and the relationship between individual project types with different phases of economic development. This area of research is recognized as being especially relevant at this stage of ongoing building efforts throughout East Asia. Within the Chinese realm, there are now hundreds of projects from varying waves of development that have been in place long enough to be given a critical review, with synthesized findings holding the potential to promote improvements with future works. For regions at an earlier stage of development, particularly portions of Southeast Asia, a new scale of building is seen as likely on the horizon and within this context the research stream may shift from reflection to projection.

Design Implementation

At the core of the discipline of landscape architecture is an ongoing challenge of translating design notions to built works; for turning ideas into projects. A multitude of individuals are necessarily involved in this execution, with everyone from a client to contractor and on to various governing authorities having some role to play, even as a collection of greater forces within the economic, cultural and climatic contexts invoke a profound influence potentially far beyond the scope of any independent entity. Better understanding the interplay of individual, context and process can, it is posited, inform design operations and lead to improved success in achieving project goals. This thesis stream focuses on advancing methodologies for developing, critiquing, and innovating on design implementation strategies. Potential areas of study include: 1.Developments in construction technologies and their impact on design capability; 2.Post occupancy evaluation and the relationship between anticipated and actual usage; 3. Material technologies, their selection as design elements and weathering properties in different climatic conditions; and 4. Role of landscape architecture and the relationship between individual project types with different phases of economic development. This area of research is recognized as being especially relevant at this stage of ongoing building efforts throughout East Asia. Within the Chinese realm, there are now hundreds of projects from varying waves of development that have been in place long enough to be given a critical review, with synthesized findings holding the potential to promote improvements with future works. For regions at an earlier stage of development, particularly portions of Southeast Asia, a new scale of building is seen as likely on the horizon and within this context the research stream may shift from reflection to projection.

East Java Studio

Taking the concept of ‘Landscape as Framework’, this studio looked at how natural landscape systems can determine and order human settlement and activity (and in turn be determined by them), and how we might develop meaningful strategies and proposals to achieve and sustain a balance between the two.We took a broad north-south corridor of land (some 150 km long and 70km wide) on the Indonesian Island of Java as our initial study area. This vast territory encompasses a volcanic landscape rich in biodiversity, scenic beauty, agricultural productivity and mineral resource, but is also home to a culturally diverse community of some 10 million people, scattered across it in a complex ‘desakota’ system of urban sprawl. Drawing on current landscape planning and urbanism theory, students looked to understand and document this landscape, not just through its physical components, but though its systems, flows, assets (and liabilities), actors, patterns, trends, etc. From this they developed strategic framework proposals for the landscape.Core to this studio was the week-long study visit, centred on the former colonial hill town of Malang where we partnered with staff and students from U. Brawijaya. Excursions to the Mt Bromo volcano, the Lapindo mud volcano at Surabaya in the north, teak plantations, water management infrastructure and the resort beaches of the southern coast, and the rich agriculture of the upland Batu Valley, allowed us to interact with local communities, record (in drawings and video) the landscape and its people, and to develop our understanding of the territory and its landscape systems. From this students were able to identify specific issues and projects which became their final projects.

Landscapes of Flux and Demand

The dynamism of landscape may conventionally be relegated to considerations of vegetative growth and decay, human uses, seasonal change and the like, but every site of terra firma is built upon geological conditions that are themselves in flux. With the logarithmic distancing of geologic- and human-timescales, such change can remain largely invisible to most observers. In unique conditions where grounds are vulnerable to erosive weathering, however, such change can have a desirable legibility that draws in users and creates a self-feeding loop of erosion and attraction. This studio focuses on exploring the consequences of landscapes being simultaneously places of flux and yet also in demand. During the course of the semester students: relate in-person observations with more conventional research findings to build determinate representations of dynamic systems; investigate strategies for how design has engaged with biophysical systems in case study sites; map spatial consequences of competing land use goals and, ultimately, develop design propositions that draw from preceding analysis and projection and take the form of specific site-scaled interventions. As the third landscape design studio for BA(LS) students, this class advances individual’s skills in computer drafting and design representation, with a particular emphasis on the development of accurately scaled drawings.

Refining Nature: The Landscape Architecture of Peter Walker

Melbourne, SJ. Refining Nature: The Landscape Architecture of Peter Walker. Birkhäuser. (Forthcoming, March 2020)

Abstract

What might one learn from a careful examination of Peter Walker’s built works, developed across a range of conditions and geographies over the past six decades? Structured according to landscape systems (i.e. topography, vegetation, water) rather than chronology or project type, Refining Nature: The Landscape Architecture of Peter Walker includes cross-sectional examinations of the designer’s working with these elements, followed by more in-depth case studies of seminal projects that trace Walker’s significant contributions to contemporary landscape design. Analytical diagrams illustrate design strategies and are paired with site photographs and original design drawings, advancing methods for the shaping of inhabited outdoor environments. The book will be published by Birkhäuser.

Design Implementation

At the core of the discipline of landscape architecture is an ongoing challenge of translating design notions to built works; for turning ideas into projects. A multitude of individuals are necessarily involved in this execution, with everyone from a client to contractor and on to various governing authorities having some role to play, even as a collection of greater forces within the economic, cultural and climatic contexts invoke a profound influence potentially far beyond the scope of any independent entity. Better understanding the interplay of individual, context and process can, it is posited, inform design operations and lead to improved success in achieving project goals. This thesis stream focuses on advancing methodologies for developing, critiquing, and innovating on design implementation strategies. Potential areas of study include: Developments in construction technologies and their impact on design capability; Post occupancy evaluation and the relationship between anticipated and actual usage; Material technologies, their selection as design elements and weathering properties in different climatic conditions; and Role of landscape architecture and the relationship between individual project types with different phases of economic development. This area of research is recognized as being especially relevant at this stage of ongoing building efforts throughout East Asia. Within the Chinese realm, there are now hundreds of projects from varying waves of development that have been in place long enough to be given a critical review, with synthesized findings holding the potential to promote improvements with future works. For regions at an earlier stage of development, particularly portions of Southeast Asia, a new scale of building is seen as likely on the horizon and within this context the research stream may shift from reflection to projection.

Student theses this year included:
“Combinatory Urbanism: A Transition Field of Urban Border” by GAN Zixuan Alvin;
“Conserve Values of Spring Water: Ecological Spring Water in Jinan” by LI Yushan Arain;
“Embracing the Risk: Adventurous Play-scape of Tung Chung Town Park” by SHA Ka Lok Sherlock; and
“AECCS: A Method to better support communication and collaboration in AEC industry” by ZHAO Yaqi Arki.

Studio Yangon 2017: Dala, Landscape Strategies in a Tropical Urban Environment

ARCH7132 STUDIO YANGON 2017: DALA This course introduces students to the fundamental practices of landscape planning and site design in a dynamic urban context. Studio Yangon 2017 was the fourth iteration of the Landscape Division’s multi-year design and research undertaking focusing on Yangon, the commercial capital and largest city in Myanmar (Burma). This year, the studio looked outside the urban core to Dala Township located across Yangon River. Through a series of design and research exercises, the studio aimed to identify and enhance the potential for landscape systems to play an active role in the strategic development of this area and of the city as a whole. In this course, the second of three studios within the MLA design curriculum, students continued to develop an iterative working process that responds to feedback and criticism. Students expanded their capacity to work simultaneously in a range of scales and to consider landscape beyond form, as processes and performance. Through discussions and precedent analysis, the studio engages in a critical dialogue with contemporary practices of landscape architecture and planning, examining their claims through the lens of a unique urban situation. Ultimately, students were challenged to develop an appreciation for the complex economic, ecological, and social factors that underlie urban environments, and to translate ideas into space, organization, and strategy.