Embracing digital tech in landscape architecture

Yang Ran is a first year Master of Landscape Architecture student whose start to the academic year was very much affected by the Covid-19 restrictions. We caught up with him to see how his semester of online learning evolved.

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It's a very difficult year with Covid-19 impacting lives profoundly. What impact has this had on your studies?

Because of the initial travel ban from China, I had to stay over 14-days in Thailand before I could enter Australia. The day that I arrived in Australia, a new Covid-19 policy requested that all overseas travellers self-quarantine for another 14-days. Following that, the campus closed. I missed almost a whole month of classes.

I relied on online delivery services when I was in quarantine. My friends and family also provided lots of help to encourage me. The university CSSA had a health pack sponsored by the local Embassy for every Chinese student, which was helpful.

I also learnt some apps on my iPad to help me with hand drawing while I was in quarantine. I found Morpholio Trace was the most useful one for subjects related to architecture and design.

Which subjects did you study in Semester 1, 2020?

Landscape Studio 1, Plants in Landscape, and Shaping the Landscape.

Can you tell us a little about the digital learning experience for Shaping the Landscape?

It was hard at the beginning as we switched the teaching method, and immediate feedback or help was not available as it is in face-to- face mode. But thanks to Nano, our super patient instructor, she provided us with detailed videos on how to work with all the required techniques. We could go back and watch the videos unlimited times if there were any missed steps.

Mural is another significant online poster sharing platform which helps to create a learning experience just like a real design studio. We were able to get feedback and ask questions through it. At the same time, Zoom meetings played a major role to help with questions or trouble shooting in online tutorials.

We had an online exhibition of our work using Mural at the end of semester which is still live online here.

Google Drive has also been a really important tool for us to share our original documents (like 3Ds Max files) with Studio Leader Nano to get individual help.

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Which programmes did you mainly use to create your projects?

AutoCAD, 3Ds Max, Adobe Photoshop & InDesign.

How has the online learning experience been with your other subjects?

Landscape Studio 1 has used similar working methods to Shaping the Landscape. We have crit Zoom meetings on Mural to get feedback about our designs. The online learning experience for Plants in Landscape has been the most challenging because I had to learn most of the plants by looking at pictures instead of seeing the real, physical plants.

Do you have any tips for other students which have helped you during lockdown and the transition to online learning?

Making a plan for each week, and a time schedule for everyday will really help you to manage your study time and improve efficiency. Also, you have to stay connected to others. Like in my class, we have a WhatsApp chat group so everyone can share information and trouble shoot. It’s also really important to connect to family and friends to help you keep positive.

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Do you think the pandemic might change the way that Landscape Architects embrace new and digital technology going forward?

Sure. Every time there’s been a challenge in human history, technology and creative thinking have been pushed to produce innovation. The importance and impact of our living environment is constantly being reinforced by science and I think it’s essential for landscape architecture to scrutinize and develop methods of human interaction within our environment. In light of the current climate, a problem has presented itself, but also an opportunity to use new digitalised technologies and innovate solutions.

Images: excerpts from Yang Ran's final project for Shaping the Landscape

Shaping the Landscape teaching team:
Dr Nano Langenheim (University of Melbourne and Monash University)

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