"Ground Form" Presented at CELA Conference

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Studio Instructor: Zaneta Hong

Graduate Students: Jennifer Corlett + Michelle Richmond

Course: Introduction to Landscape Architecture III - Flux City

Harvard University, Graduate School of Design

Zaneta Hong + Michael Leighton Beaman will be presenting "Ground Form: Simulation and Representation for Landscape Design" at this year's Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture [CELA] in Baltimore, MD on March 27, 2014.

The presentation examines the epidemiological transition from representational focused media and techniques to ones of simulation in the practice of landscape architectural research and production.


Ground is both the material and location of design production for the discipline of Landscape Architecture. As landscape designers, we analyze the intrinsic qualities of ground [material + site], and establish a relationship between these and the extrinsic qualities we wish to generate through the design and manufacture of ground-forms, their programs and performances. Creating a synthetic relationship between these two qualitative categories has historically derived from methodologies of representation – a coding that translates information from both domains into a shared language. Landscape architectural education commonly relies on the well-established regime of two-dimensional projections [drawings] and three-dimensional reductions [models] to explore, create, and communicate these two types of qualities.

Both regimes rely on abstraction [the removal of specific information to adhere to conform to a representational system] to bring these two qualities into a common visually based framework. This framework’s effectiveness, the equalization of the disparate information sets embedded into these two qualitative types, has also been its limitation. The application of parameter-based modeling and other computational media offer an alternative framework, one that can yield visual definitions of ground, but whose effectiveness is derived from simulation, not visualization.

Much like projection and modeling, parameterization, and computational media in general, has derived much of its current approach to landscape simulation through architectonic explorations and utilizations, which privilege finality and stability over flux and perturbation. Manufactured ground-formations however, do not always find resolution in stable states. Quantitative geomorphological research, the study of computational models of geological phenomena, positions topographical features as systems in either stable or perturbed states which can be simulated through recursive operations.

Beyond the comparative framework parameterization creates, the use of computational media produces novel and expansive modes for landscape design exploration and production, extending our ability to understand and communicate the operational, material, and technological history of manufactured ground-formations, and potential morphological, phenomenological, and technological futures. This paper position these three parameters – operations, materials, and technologies – as the vehicles through which ground-forms as material constructions can be analyzed, explored, and generated; along with the impact simulation-based design methodologies have on representation in landscape architecture education.