I spent the final year of my Master of Landscape Architecture on a major research project under the supervision of Professor Jules Moloney and Tane Moleta. The scale and scope of the project offered a great opportunity to tie together previously—loose threads in a set of degrees that spanned across architecture, landscape architecture, philosophy, and computer science.
The computer can be a highly efficient drafting table. It can also be much more. Architects can use programming to engage with the computer on its own terms, and in doing so gain a better understanding of complex geometric, structural, or conceptual design scenarios. This ‘computational approach’ to design is increasingly common in architecture, but comparatively rare within landscape architecture. In this thesis, I examine how and why landscape architects might employ computational design.
I start by reviewing the work of computational architects and landscape urbanists. Both emphasise diagrammatic and processual strategies as a means to confront complexity and indeterminism within the design process. However, this conceptual overlap masks a technological divergence, as computational tools are presently ill-suited to the needs of landscape architects. Their focus should be shifted away from formal exploration and towards the analysis, simulation, and generation of landscape systems. Doing so would offer landscape architects new forms of representation that would overcome some of the current limitations within their design process.
To test this proposition, I create a series of generative tools, or ‘patterns’, that use computational techniques to model ecological systems. This pattern-based approach introduces a methodology that improves the accessibility and flexibility of computational design by following the notion of a ‘design pattern’ advanced by Christopher Alexander and in software engineering. These patterns are applied in tandem with standard computational techniques to create a concept design for a post-industrial landscape. In this research, I identify computation as a powerful tool for designing landscapes as the conceptual and technical methodologies it offers enable landscape architects to better understand and explore the indeterminacy of open-ended systems. Computation offers a novel opportunity to combine conceptual openness and technical rigour when designing complex landscapes.