Geospatial training of landscape architects to facilitate a coupled human natural systems approach to designing built environments

Friday, 11 December 2020
Sara Alian, Oklahoma State University Main Campus, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Stillwater, OK, United States and Ali Mirchi, Oklahoma State University Main Campus, Stillwater, United States
Landscape architects play a fundamental role in shaping our built environments. With growing understanding of built environments as coupled human natural systems (CHNS), it is increasingly important to equip the next generation of landscape architects with tools and skillset to incorporate CHNS concepts in their designs. Training landscape architects to take advantage of geospatial technologies is a potential opportunity to familiarize landscape architecture students with their evolving role to use the findings of earth system sciences. As a starting point, we analyzed geographic information system (GIS) courses taught in landscape architecture curricula at U.S. universities to evaluate the extent to which the topical areas allow using GIS for landscape site analysis and design. GIS is a “hands-on” computer-based technology with a steep learning curve to work with geospatial data for various purposes. Competency in using GIS means the students should be able to apply GIS for geospatial data management, data analysis and interpretation, and visualization and map making. These expectations present challenges and opportunities for training undergraduate landscape architecture students to design well-functioning built environments in coupled human-natural systems. We compare the objectives and teaching materials covered in different GIS for landscape architects courses at the undergraduate level by reviewing course syllabi from different programs to identify common themes and teaching practices that can improve GIS education in landscape architecture.