DLA Conference Report

Report on DLA 2010 by Michael Flaxman

DLA 2010 Features Innovations in Green Design Technologies

The 11th Annual Conference on Digital Landscape Architecture was held in Aschersleben, Germany May 26 - June 2, 2010. The conference is the premier international forum for the dissemination of advanced research in the application of digital technologies to green design. The event included presentations from world-renown professors and leading practitioners.  Workshops and hand?s-on demonstrations were also provided, allowing attendees to discuss technology trends and to interact with experimental prototypes and new commercial products.  

The participation of local and regional political leaders helped to underscore the importance of innovations in this field in addressing critical social and environmental issues. Social topics addressed included the revitalization of declining cities, improving the lives of slum dwellers in the developing world, and using green infrastructure to improve flood control while making cities more livable. Environmental issues included stemming biodiversity decline using ecosystem services approaches, and mitigating and adapting to global warming. 

The conference`s first keynote was presented by Harvard Professor Carl Steinitz, who provided a look ahead at the future of the field, illustrated with numerous examples. Two sessions explored aspects of sustainable landscape modeling and design. Presented projects illustrated the use of sustainability indicators, the application of smart phones as design tools, and the practice of sustainable design under the challenging circumstances presented by informal settlements in the developing world. 

A major theme of the conference and subject of a session and workshop, was the development of "landscape information models" or LIM. This is a new approach in landscape planning technology, developing representations of landscape components which can be shared between software packages and as web services.  In architectural practice, building information models or BIM have led to increased ability of designers to demonstrate the long term value of improvements in building performance to their clients. The development of LIM and ecosystem services concepts could bring similar benefits to landscape architecture. Several tools for creating and manipulating LIM were demonstrated and discussed, as were general computational platforms for developing "geodesign" methods.

The final day of the conference featured a set of presentations of the best of contemporary digital landscape architecture in practice.  A number of short talks showed current work from Costa Rica to Istanbul.  Afternoon discussion featured a keynote by Prof. Amo Schmid, president of the German Federal Chamber of Architects, discussing virtual and real landscapes and their roles in social and urban development. This was followed by presentations from some leading Germany landscape architecture firms, presenting recent projects featuring digital representations and working methods.