Date of Award:

2014

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)

Department:

Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning

Advisor/Chair:

Shujuan Li

Abstract

The design process is important to all landscape architects. It helps generate ideas to solve problems in an efficient amount of time and insure that all stages of a project are completed. Generally, a design process includes project acquisition, inventory and site analysis, conflicts identification, public involvement, draft products, and final presentation. Among these elements, public involvement has been recognized as one of the most important elements in the landscape design process. It not only helps professionals get projects done smoothly, but it also helps with long-term client retention. Traditional two-dimensional communication methods using renderings, design plans, and maps have not been fully successful in their ability to engage and sufficiently inform clients and stakeholders. While professional planners are able to rely on their experience to help them visualize proposed landscapes, the average client is often overwhelmed by the relatively complex and abstract information, and unable to translate this information into landscape visions. Developments in the field of 3D graphics have dramatically extended possibilities to overcome this barrier by providing a tool that produces designs that are easy to comprehend and helps clients better visualize the end product that the designer has put forth. Some people argue that the high investment cost of 3D software such as ArcGIS, 3Dmax, etc., and its time-consuming process to master, is too great an obstacle for most designers and firms to use the software in their work with the average client or stakeholder. However, little research has been done to investigate the extent to which landscape architects have adopted the 3D software. We know even less about their opinions on the suitability of existing 3D software packages to meet their professional needs.

A nationwide survey about current use and future demand for 3D simulation software within the landscape profession was conducted for this thesis. Comprehensive online surveys were sent to two groups: (1) landscape architecture firms and freelance landscape architects; and (2) institutions with landscape architecture programs. In total, 3,434 firms and freelance architects were identified based on data from the American Society of Landscape Architecture. Names and contact information of ninety-one faculty members from institutions with landscape architecture programs were found on the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture website.

The opportunities and challenges of 3D visualization technology and its potential applications in landscape and environmental planning have been examined based on the findings from survey results. The results are relevant to the future improvement and innovation of 3D visualization software in the landscape architecture profession and can assist landscape architecture educators with future curriculum development.

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