Ecological Do-Nothing Landforms

This design seminar will explore the reciprocal relationship between techniques of landforming and ecological analysis through precedent studies, relational digital modeling, computational analysis, and image-making. The aim of this course is to develop an awareness of the inextricable association between landforming and its potential to shape environmental conditions. Rather than problem-solving, this course seeks to develop generative form-making workflow informed by advanced ecological analysis tools.

As the course title suggests, we will borrow the conceptual approach of the Solar “Do-Nothing” Machine, a kinetic aluminum sculpture designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1957. The Eames described their invention as a “device that will do nothing” as it converted sunlight into electrical energy to produce a delightful set of actions and visual phenomena using pistons, pulleys, connected armatures, and spinning wheels of colors. The purpose of this whimsical device — a toy — was to produce awareness and trigger imaginations of the then emergent solar energy generation technology.

In this course, each student will produce iterative designs of a 100m by 100m landform (10,000m2, 1 hectare, 2.47 acres), informed by its hydrological, solar, and aeolian characteristics. As we progress through the semester, we will sequentially introduce materiality, flora, and fauna to this abstract landform.

Phase 1: Precedent Analysis
In the introductory phase of the seminar, we will conduct case studies of landscape architecture and land-art precedent projects. Students will develop a method of relationally modeling the chosen precedent and perform contour, serial section, slope, aspect, waterflow, inundation, shadow, wind, and cut-and-fill analysis.

Phase 2: Landform Iterations and Analysis
Based on the form-making language and ecological characteristics extracted from the precedent analysis, we will produce landform iterations and corresponding sets of analytical drawings and animations.

Phase 3: Designing Change Over Time: Materiality, Flora, and Fauna
In this phase, we will imagine how the abstract landform may change over time due to erosion, plant succession, and animal habitation. We will choreograph the processes of change by specifying material combinations, initial flora selection and distribution, and animal population inhabiting the landscape.

Software Requirement:
Adobe After Effects

Due to the Labor Day holiday, this course will meet for the first time at its standard time on Wednesday, August 31st.