Date of Award:

8-2019

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)

Department:

Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning

Advisor/Chair:

Benjamin H. George

Co-Advisor/Chair:

Dean Mathias

Third Advisor:

David Evans

Abstract

In the field of landscape architecture, the use of virtual reality (VR) is increasing as a tool for visualization and presentation in the late stages of the design process. Many of the benefits that make VR valuable in the later stages of the design process suggest that VR may also be valuable when used in earlier stages such as analysis and concept development. However, existing research does not provide a detailed study of design within VR during those early stages. Recent advancements in technology allow the potential to bring significant changes in the way that design-related professionals collaborate and design. While the use of VR in design professions is increasing, researching is lacking in addressing the benefits of VR such as what unique capabilities VR provides, what are the limitations in its use, and at what project scales should it be used.

This study examines two student design projects to test the impacts of VR when used in the analysis and concept development stages of the design process at both a large master planning scale and a smaller site-design scale. A series of surveys and focus groups were used to gather feedback from participants over several data collection rounds in each project. Participants reported various advantages and disadvantages of utilizing VR in the design process, and the data suggests that VR improved their ability to understand complex issues and relationships and gave them an improved spatial understanding and awareness of the three-dimensional nature of their designs. However, verbal team collaboration proved to be negatively affected by using VR. The results of this research demonstrate the value and benefits of VR as a tool for analysis and concept development while also highlighting weaknesses and areas for improvement. This study suggests a positive outlook for the use of VR as a design tool and demonstrates that it can enhance and effectively be integrated into the early phases of the landscape architecture design process on both large and small project scales.

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