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Poster LARCH7031 - 2020.jpg


University of Adelaide


Chair: Dr Carlos Bartesaghi Koc


Design tutors: Janelle Arbon, Rasoul Rafat,

Kar K. Gan,Matthew Hawker 


Rhino+Grasshopper experts: Dr Philip Belesky,

Juliana Croffi, Victor Calixto

Contributors: City of Onkaparinga


Master of Landscape Architecture


Semester I-2020


Leonor Bassano, Niveta Chawla, Stephanie Clutterbuck, Azhrudin Coulthard, Samantha Godakumbura, Krisandra Gomes, Luke Kluske, Bohui Lei, Shiyao Li, Zhenyang Li, Yu Lin, Jiaming Ma, Claire Monford-Waite, Stephanie Pope, Ziyan Qi, Reb Rowe, Ke Wang, Ben Wesley, Dengxiao Xia, Kaihang Zhou.

Extreme Territories: design brief


The whole world is facing an appalling climate and ecological emergency as a consequence of global warming and climate change. In the context of a changing environment, a stronger focus will be set on rural communities worldwide. In Australia, an historic record of multi-year drought, devastating bushfires, longer heatwaves and uncontrollable floods has been experienced in the South and Southeast coast of the country in 2019-2020. Given our dependence on rural areas for food and water, extensive droughts and flash floods threaten the live and subsistence of cities in future. In particular, for those living in Mediterranean climate zones, such as in South Australia, the effects of an increasingly warm and dry planet have become more evident and significant. Hence, we need to develop better strategies to plan and design territories where more heat and less water is a common thing.

In this sense, we present LARCH7031 Landscape Architecture Studio as an introduction to ‘extreme territory design’ which will develop as new area of competence in landscape architecture and related fields, where practitioners will play an important role in future.

The goal of this studio is to improve local climatic conditions and to mitigate the effect of extreme events (i.e. flooding, heatwaves, bushfires, droughts, sea level rise) through the purposeful eco-morphological design at multiple spatial scales. A special emphasis is put on topological, regenerative, performative and responsive approaches for the exploration of a range of strategies that respond to anticipated extreme climatic conditions in South Australia.

In this studio, students will address extreme environmental challenges and explore the application of new and innovative technologies for the formulation of site-specific scenarios. The prime concern in the studio is the analysis and manipulation of the local topography, water features and vegetated elements to mitigate extreme heat, reduce flooding, mitigate bushfires and increase the capacity of water storage for future irrigation and cultivation. Students will be asked to develop a range of proposals at (1) the territory and (2) local landscape scales that envision new approaches to innovative settlement.

Methodological approach

The studio work will be conducted following the ‘systems thinking approach’. This holistic approach has been implemented by the course chair over the last several years, and integrates the ecological, topological, and structural performances of a site as a single meaningful whole that changes over time and space.


Phase 1.   Territorial processes

On the first phase of the studio, Students will concentrate on the ecological and geomorphological processes, the spatial composition and the organisation of contemporary social and physical structures of a large territory.

Students will be asked to select one or several ‘extreme environmental challenge(s)’ (i.e. flooding, heatwave, sea level rise, bushfires, droughts, etc.) that their proposal should ultimately address. For example, proposals may provide solutions on how we can adapt better to an extremely dry and bushfire-prone landscape by 2050.

Students organised in teams, will rely on field analysis to understand land and territorial formations to construct a landscape vision in space and time that effectively responds to anticipated extreme weather events. The structuring plan should put attention to the distribution and relationship of agricultural zones, urban settlements (towns), water courses, and natural areas. This can be achieved by investigating the local topography and geology, vegetation (green infrastructure), agriculture, settlement patterns, water (blue infrastructure), wildlife, culture and heritage (e.g. aboriginal areas, grey infrastructure (i.e. transportation, pipelines, energy), and social interactions as dynamic, heterogenous and complex interconnected systems. Student’s proposals may consider different scenarios emerging as a result of their constantly changing interrelationships depending on vegetation growth, sedimentation, erosion, water runoff, varying climatic and weather conditions, patterns of urbanization, etc.

A range of datasets need to be retrieved and analysed in order to understand, test and propose solutions. GIS is particularly well-suited tool for this type of work. A GIS mapping workshop will provide the necessary analytic framework and understanding to analyse a large landscape or territory. Although skills will be taught in class, independent study will also be required to ensure that you are familiar with the operation and capabilities of the software used in-class.

In this stage, students will implement analogue design tools (maps, drawings, sketches, sections, plans, and models) in combination cartographic techniques such as GIS-mapping, point cloud modelling, digital elevation models (DEM) analysis and 3D visualisation to develop accurate and tangible landscape solutions at large scales. The landscape vision for the entire territory should emerge and evolve from geo-referenced datasets and their subsequent analysis. Various software programs are introduced and tested by students to manipulate, process and visualise this data such as ArcGIS, QGIS, Cloud Compare, Rhino, Grasshopper, Caesar Lisflood, etc.

Phase 2.   Landscape formations

The goal of the second phase is to elaborate a set of varying design responses (or solutions) for a designated area/site that each student will individually choose within the catchment or territory previously proposed in Phase 1. Students should implement innovative landscape architectural approaches to design topographically and environmentally responsive interventions. The landscape programme will be defined by each student and will vary depending on the landscape vision and conditions defined in Phase 1 as well as the location, character and bio-physical properties of each site.

As per Phase 1, students will be asked to develop different scenarios to respond to the defined extreme environmental challenge(s) in terms of three key concerns:

  1. The ecological: wildlife, vegetation, hydrology, climate

  2. The topological: topography, geology, water dynamics, erosion, sedimentation, flooding

  3. The structural: urban settlements, heritage, roads, services


Considering the above, for instance, students might devise methods of precise terrain modelling in a way that extracted ground materials (e.g. for controlling floods or reduce sedimentation) are not brought in or transported out of the selected site. In addition, the design and management of proposed landscapes should cause minimal disruptions on exiting ecosystems and biotopes. 


Once the ‘site’ and ‘extreme environmental challenge(s)’ are defined, students will assess designated areas within the site to recognise their local bio-physical conditions. This analysis will reveal a variety of landscape elements in shape, space and time that will lead to better design decisions for each project. As conditions are not fixed across the entire site, some may have a higher degree of resistance than others. The iteration between ‘assessment’ and ‘modification’ is a dynamic generating process that will allow students to propose specific ‘landscape prototypes’ obtained through the manipulation of terrain, vegetation, water, and built-up assemblages.


Students may use portions of the datasets employed in Phase 1 that can be exported to other software such as Rhino, Revit, Grasshopper to generate landscape entities (i.e. topographic surfaces, green canopy) that can be edited during the design process, so features can be added or removed according to each project. From this point, students should be able to develop and visualise a definitive design for their selected site supported by choices in terms of materiality, soil structure, plant species, fluid dynamics, integration of surroundings, etc. To guide students in developing their own landscape design possibilities, various analogue and digital methods will be introduced and explored, and this include algorithm-aided modelling and simulation, 3D visualisation, sensing technologies, 3D printing and prototyping, etc.

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