Author: Joseph Little

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The Landscape Architectural Design Process and Technology

The use of computer technology in landscape architecture promised to allow for more time for landscape architects (LA) to do what they love to do, design. However, due to the highly competitive nature of the profession, the primary result was that we have less time to do more work. We are now at a point where it is possible to turn over a large number of projects in a very short time. Most of the computer technology is geared to increase the efficiency of the user. What used to take a week now can be done in a day, or even an hour. Now, I am not saying that this is not a good thing, but by focusing so much on speed and efficiency and very little on the design process the end results generally are very beautiful looking designs on paper but not so inspiring designs on the ground. This type of technology has a tendency to force the LA to think in two dimensions. You go out to visit the site. Take some photos. Come back to the office. Work out some quick sketches, if the time allows and then quickly move on to drawing up the master plan, where most of the “design time” is spent. (If other LAs have a different experience please let me know!!!)

 

I was very impressed when I learned that the Ancient Greeks did not layout their cities by a top down approach but by using the first person perspective, and by dividing the view into balanced segments. The result of this approach is that there is little or no aesthetic value to the top down view of their designs, but from the first person perspective, the perspective from which it is experienced, it is truly masterful!

 

When I was working in Dublin, Ireland, I looked into different methods of incorporating the third dimension into the design process. I did not want to create beautiful plans but good landscape designs. I wanted to take the emphasis off the plan and put it on to the elevation. But when dealing with complex terrains, this is quite difficult and time consuming. Certainly more time consuming then would be allowed for a typical project. You spend a long time working on an design, then someone somewhere along the design-team pipeline makes a “small change” and you have to start from scratch! I looked into different software packages that might be able to help but was quite frustrated with what I found. There are many very comprehensive civil packages but they are prohibitively expensive and on top of that, most of what they offer is not even needed for landscape architects. Then there are other packages such as SketchUp that are quite nice to work with but really are not great for dealing with complex terrains, and also have the disadvantage that you have to start importing and exporting from AutoCAD. This gave me the idea of starting a software company that was dedicated to writing software for landscape architects, a company that would put its focus on improving the design process. Two years ago I moved to the US and started LLandSoft. We have just released our first product: Terrain Tool.  It is a simple yet very powerful tool that allows you to create and modify complex terrains within AutoCAD. It allows you to seamlessly move between 2D and 3D, and also gives you many essential tools such as creating contour lines, cross sections, 3D surfaces and much more.

 

If you like what we are doing please check it out! There is a free 30 day trial available on our website.  Also please support us by “Liking” the Terrain Tool on Facebook! I welcome any comments or feedback on this (good or bad)! I am very interested in other landscape architects thoughts and experiences on this topic!!!

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