Our Melbourne Director Kirsten Bauer has been pioneering the use of technology in the field of landscape design at ASPECT Studios. In this article we share her insights on digital technology and how it is positively impacting the design of spaces for people and place.. Words by Kirsten Bauer, Melbourne Director, ASPECT Studios. The landscape architecture profession is in a unique position to apply both creative thinking and scientific knowledge to the complex environmental and social challenges of the modern age. Digital technologies are now critically important in crafting the most sophisticated, intelligent designs and I believe they are essential to the creation of dynamic and responsive forms. Computer-aided design (CAD) began to emerge in the 1980s but it wasn’t until the following decade that it became influential to our profession. ASPECT Studios was launched in 1993 and was one of the first landscape practices to use CAD. We continue to be a champion of digital technology with the industry. I have always been interested in the opportunities that digital technology offers landscape architects. Even in my university days, I wanted to know not just what a design looks like but how it feels and how it will be experienced. Digital technology provides the kind of spatial and experiential insight that 2D planning simply cannot match. Digital technology places you within your design and enables you to test ideas against a site or against other information. For these reasons, I think digital technologies help us produce better design outcomes because nothing is left to chance. If you’re designing a large freeway, for example, a plan in sections cannot tell you about the experience of driving on that road at 100km an hour. Digital technology, however, allows you to move through the design at high speed so you can test the impact of your ideas. While we remain in control of our designs, technology becomes a kind of co-creative partner. ASPECT Studios was the first landscape practice in Australia to use virtual reality to communicate to stakeholders. This is another key benefit of digital technology – it enables us to use 3D designs and virtual reality to communicate with clients and the community. This is especially important for projects located within highly urbanised environments with a high level of integration between architecture and landscape. While digital technology allows us to communicate designs in more meaningful ways, its key benefit is in the design-generative outcomes it enables us to achieve. 3D modelling helps us to not only visualise but to generate complex surfaces and forms. Our work on the Victorian Desalination Plant & Ecological Reserve is a good example. In order to reduce the environmental impact of the plant, the design needed to address issues of visual intrusions and noise while also protecting the coastal and marine environment and the recreational appeal of the adjacent coast reserve. Digital technology enabled us to keep these considerations central to the design. We worked with architecture team at peckvonhartel/ARM and the engineering team at Parsons Brinckerhoff/Beca to lead the ambitious site plan and detailed design. The 225ha Ecological Reserve camouflages the Plant through a 26000m2 green roof and a dune system. Using terrain information provided by civil engineers, we developed a 3D model with parametric software. This allowed us to work across multiple scales and to test the real-time consequences of design decisions while also understanding the complex relationship between architecture, infrastructure and landform. This model provided an essential overview of the interconnecting elements of this large-scale project and became the only representation that could communicate the entirety of the project to our stakeholders. This allowed us to demonstrate not only new roles but also new capabilities of the landscape architecture profession. Digital technology also gives landscape architects a greater voice at the planning table; it allows us to be proactive and influential and it facilitates greater collaboration. This was the case in the Yagan Square project in Perth, which we are working on with architecture practices Lyons and Iredale Pedersen Hook. At just over one hectare in size, Yagan Square will serve as a major civic space – it will combine an urban mall, play areas, public art and market hall retail spaces and the design integrates a terraced landscape with architecture. Contractual obligations meant that the entire design had to be delivered using Building Information Modeling (BIM) software. This allowed us to collaborate with the architects and share information within an intelligent, virtual model. The modeling was created in the design application Rhino, which also allowed us to collaborate with artists involved in the project and to generate the contoured form. This model was then fed into the final documentation in the BIM application, Revit. Digital technology represents an evolution in both our design thinking and our design processes at ASPECT Studios. Beyond 3D parametric modelling, we have now started to customise technology for our own practice by coding to generate form and environmental analyses. Landscape architects have always taken off-the-shelf digital products and customised them to our own needs and we are now taking this a step further at ASPECT through software programming. At ASPECT Studios, we design for people and place. Digital technology is essential to this. It allows us to walk through a design, inhabit the space and view it from a social perspective. It also allows us to understand the environmental implications, to identify issues and to gain a greater understanding of the human experience. About Kirsten Bauer Kirsten Bauer / Director Registered Landscape Architect, AILA, Fellow Australian Institute of Landscape Architects Adjunct Professor of RMIT University Master of Architecture by Design, RMIT Technical University of Berlin Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (Hons), RMIT Kirsten is a Director of ASPECT Studios globally and is based in Melbourne. Kirsten has led award winning and significant public realm projects across Australia and particularly Melbourne. She has been awarded by international and local organisations. She is a current member of the Victorian Design Review Panel and other municipal design review panels in Victoria well as a long standing invited lecturer, juror and professional advisor at the University of Melbourne and RMIT University. She is an Adjunct Professor at RMIT University and is currently on the Yarra River Protection Ministerial Advisory Committee. Kirsten has a practise based interest in digital design techniques and innovative design across all stages of the project. The practise uses an integration of Rhino, Revit, Grasshopper, V Ray, Vectorworks/AutoCAD and SketchUp to explore design and document in three dimensions. Kirsten speaks authoritatively on contemporary landscape practice and regularly gives lectures in universities and industry events across Australia and New Zealand. Credits We would like to acknowledge the role of the following partners and team members for their significant contributions and work on the below projects Yagan Square Client - Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority, Western Australia Design Team - Lyons (architects), iredale Pedersen hook architects, Aurecon, Waterforms International, WSP Artists – Jon Tarry, Sharon Egan, Paul Carter, Helen Smith, Jeremy Kirwin Ward and Shaun Gladwell The Victorian Desalination Plant and Ecological Reserve Client – AquaSure Design Team - Peckvonhartel, ARM Architecture, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Beca, Fytogreen Australia, Practical Ecology
Landscape Design in a Digital Age.