Cultivating Spatial Intelligence
Spatial Information in Design Education
The Graduate School of Design(GSD)is home to Harvard University's graduate programs in Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Urban Design and Urban Planning. Each of these endeavors is very information intensive. The work of designers and planners amounts, in large measure, to these information processing activities:Designers and Planners:
- Collect and organize information as a means of modeling the phenomena and relationships that are critical to understanding a place.
- Create new information by altering models to simulate and explore the possible consequences of proposed or probable alternate futures.
- Share Information and Understanding with colleaques, clients and critics to better collaborate and participate as a member of a team and society.
All of our work is oriented toward understanding and improving the built environment. Each term, every GSD student whatever their program, is concerned with how a geographical site, its context and associated spatial processes relate to one-another in space and over time. Paper maps, statistical digests and physical models have always been important tools for designers seeking to understand the physical, cultural, historical, and regulatory context of projects. In the past decade, digital media and the internet have come to replace paper maps as the primary means of recording and sharing contextual information. At the same time, the quantity and diversity of spatial information available to designers has increased tremendously. Part of the challenge of design research and education is understanding what might be learned from all of these new information sources -- how do they affect our ways of understanding places: developing new ideas, communicating, collaboration? Information technology has changed the environment for design and the opportunities and expectations for design practice and scholarship.
The GSD has an important place in the history of the development of today's ubiquitous technology for spatial representation and analysis, and their application in design curriculum. Many of today's pioneers of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) were associated the GSD's Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis (LCGSA) between 1965 and 1989, and many of the fundamental data and software models for GIS were developed here. For more information about the history of GIS at the GSD, see Nicholas Chrisman's 2006 book, Mapping The Unknown: How Computer Mapping Became GIS at Harvard. Though the LCGSA has disbanded, the geographic information systems remain imbedded in the GSD's curriculum and infrastructure.
In keeping with the mission of the Harvard Design School to prepare designers to lead in an information infused future, we maintain an excellent facility for learning about and using digital spatial data and geographic information systems. While at the GSD, all students have access to the finest software resources for working with spatial data; a great and growing collection of detailed place-based information. We pride ourselves on our examples, technical documentation and instruction regarding: compilation and sharing place-based information; transformation of spatial data and ideas into useful logical models; development and communication of ideas through maps and broad-scale 3d Models. For more information on these subjects explore the links on the left side of this page.
We hope that by maintaining an excellent environment for developing, transforming and sharing information about places, our students will have every opportunity to learn how to use geographic information effectively and responsibly; and our graduates will uphold high standards for information management in their own firms, agencies and communities.
Geographic Information Systems Specialist
Harvard University Graduate School of Design