Tangible topographic modeling for landscape architects

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We present Tangible Landscape—a technology for rapidly and intuitively designing landscapes informed by geospatial modeling, analysis, and simulation. It is a tangible interface powered by a geographic information system that gives three-dimensional spatial data an interactive, physical form so that users can naturally sense and shape it. Tangible Landscape couples a physical and a digital model of a landscape through a real-time cycle of physical manipulation, three-dimensional scanning, spatial computation, and projected feedback. Natural three-dimensional sketching and real-time analytical feedback should aid landscape architects in the design of high performance landscapes that account for physical and ecological processes. We conducted a series of studies to assess the effectiveness of tangible modeling for landscape architects. Landscape architecture students, academics, and professionals were given a series of fundamental landscape design tasks—topographic modeling, cut-and-fill analysis, and water flow modeling. We assessed their performance using qualitative and quantitative methods including interviews, raster statistics, morphometric analyses, and geospatial simulation. With tangible modeling, participants built more accurate models that better represented morphological features than they did with either digital or analog hand modeling. When tangibly modeling, they worked in a rapid, iterative process informed by real-time geospatial analytics and simulations. With the aid of real-time simulations, they were able to quickly understand and then manipulate how complex topography controls the flow of water.

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International Journal of Architectural Computing

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