Copyright Natural Habitats 2016

Digital Technology is (not) the future of Landscape Architecture

Digital Technology is (not) the future of Landscape Architecture


Technological advancement of digital media is a fascinating topic for landscape architecture. Landscape Architect Jane Rumble discusses the merits and drawbacks in contemporary practice.

Digital representation is a relevant and invaluable topic of study within the academic realm, with benefits for the discipline as a whole.
There is an intrinsic quality in the hands-on explorative process that is lacking in the digital format. Hands-on design processes offer an intimate approach to conceptual thinking about the site. Whether it is a rough freehand drawing, abstracted photographs, makeshift model or mosaic that has been cut up, folded and moved around, early explorations communicate design thinking. These media can evoke the experience of a place in a way that offers richness to the conceptual process.
With the recent surge in the use of digital representation, hand-drawn images are a refreshing addition when integrated in to a design package. However, the drawing board alone will not keep landscape architecture in step with our partner industries.
Tools such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and AutoCAD have much to offer. GIS layering of site qualities, landscape patterns and connections inherent to the site enrich site analysis and feed into the design process. Programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator are useful for layering different types of media, testing a concept and adding texture and interest to a presentation. The technical accuracy of Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs such as AutoCAD enable drafting accuracy, modelling, flexible editing of drawings and are formatted to allow the transfer of information between construction and design industries.
Digital software is an invaluable tool for landscape architecture and sharpens our skills as designers, however the creative process should not be confined to a computer. Digital advancement will continue to pervade the industry, thus computer-based technology is the future of landscape architecture. However, a visual representation can come to life through the thoughtful integration of hand-drawing and conceptual thinking with digital technology.
As designers we are taught to experiment and find new ways of doing: discovering techniques to connect land and people through meaningful design. The skill lies in then choosing the most effective means of visually communicating that information from the overall picture down to the smallest detail.
Good design starts with an idea.

Suggested reading:
Cantrell, B and Michaels, W (2010) Digital Drawing for Landscape Architecture: Contemporary Techniques and Tools for Digital Representation: John Wiley and Sons, New Jersey, USA

By Jane Rumble
Landscape Architect
Natural Habitats