Landscape Architecture trends in 2017 and beyond

We are now in the second week of 2017 and looking forward to the coming year ahead to what will be trends in Landscape Architecture. These trends deal with a larger areas of landscape architecture predicting what we may possibly see in the future months and years.

Climate Adaptation
The discussion around climate change in the media and blogs is still revolving around the issue and less around solutions. However, in recent time in research and landscape practice we are seeing more intense discussion around climate change solutions including climate adaptation. In the future we will see more research, competitions and projects using elements of climate adaptation to create wholistic design solutions as the world faces with the increasing environmental pressures of climate change. Urban spaces will be designed utilising the opportunities they present to adapt to climate change.

Local solutions at grand scale
As densities increase in cities (developed and developing countries) we will see larger scale projects that will attempt to service the needs of increasing populations (housing, transport, social, green space, job creation) at a local level. However, these projects will increasingly need to build support at the local level with a mix of private and public funding, this may be not new to the mega international cities but it will become more prevalent in the smaller to medium size cities, no longer can these cities chip away at infrastructure and environmental problems at a piece by piece basis as they feel the pressures of increasing populations. On the reverse, ageing cities in some developed countries (Japan, Czechia, Latvia, Italy, Ukraine, etc) will need to look to their unique local character to reinvent themselves as populations decline and jobs move to larger financial and technological centres. It will also be local people who will with the help from government, and design professionals to create solutions for better cities and communities.

Alternative Transport Modes
As people increasingly embrace ride-sharing and the race for autonomous vehicles (cars, trucks, buses) increases between established car companies and start-up tech companies we will see governments developing initiatives and regulations to address these new technologies and how spaces and services are designed. Autonomous vehicles and ride sharing will reduce the need for wide road lanes, car parking, but require an increase in the number and size of areas required for drop-off and pickup of riders at airports, train/subway stations, offices, retail districts, tourist precincts and more. Cities will also look to use the reduced car lanes widths to provide space for bike lanes and other alternative transport (yet to be designed).

Rural and Remedies
Rural areas will continue to be the food source for local and international populations (local & export) however, rural towns will have to address their declining populations as farm sizes increase and technology allows more efficient farming turning to tourism, research, technology and other yet to develop industries. Sadly, rural & forested areas in both developed and developing nations will continue to deforest vast areas in the push for farmland due to the increase in demand for land to be used for livestock and crops (food & forestry).

Moving Populations and Temporary cities
We have seen large shift in populations due to war(Syrian, Afghani refugees) and climate(flooding, desertification). These shifts will require landscape architects and architects to develop more creative solutions to create temporary (semi-permanent) cities by studying tent cities and events such as Burning Man. The stresses placed on existing cities due to a sharp increase in population often causes long term effects, however this pressure can be seen as an opportunity to develop solutions for more resilient cities.

Human Scale and Local Uniqueness
Although the previous paragraph spoke of grand scale, this only refers to the size of the projects. The design scale will look to provide human scale spaces that use the unique local character (culture, environment, orientation, proximity) to create places for people. Over the last few decades there has been to much focus on international design language where it became hard to determine where the space was located. Optimistically, the trend will be local people using local culture and uniqueness to develop spaces that showcase the uniqueness of their city. If the discontent of 2016 with the political system continues through 2017 and the following years, we will see people start to pressure those at the local level (local/state/provincial) and this will be more evident in cities and the spaces created.

Nature
Nature will continue to play an important role in landscape architecture and we as practitioners will continue to be inspired and create designs that emulate and mimic(bio-mimicry) nature. An increasing trend will be to use the messiness and ephemerality of nature in a structured manner to create beautiful landscapes.

Data and Research
Although research has often been part of landscape architecture for decades, the decrease in the cost of sensors and data collection will allow more detailed studies to be undertaken that provide an overall picture of how cities and spaces are used throughout 24 hours and these studies will find some interesting results about cities, social interaction, and the influence of varying elements that make up a city including pedestrians, traffic, biomass, building form, materials and more. Also cities will continue to be able to leverage the power of websites, social media to respond to citizen reports and complaints.

Landscape Illustration
The trend will continue for perspectives (hand drawn, digital or composite) to be used as the primary method of expression for illustrating landscape designs. We will see designers start to use a composite of drone footage and 3D animation (Lumion, etc) to create a renders and fly-throughs. The beginning of Virtual Reality with clients viewing the design in the designers or their office. Augmented Reality will come later where clients will be able to stand on the site and experience first hand the design and not just imagine the finished landscape design.

I hope for a trend in which landscape architects are more restrained in their design renders that show a more realistic render with smaller crowds and a fewer activities (renders have over recent times have become overly populated, car free, and overly programmed). I also hope that landscape architects advise architects more often to stop dressing up building with trees (building structural plates alone can’t provide soil depth for oaks and camphors).

Building Information Modelling (BIM)
BIM will continue to increase in its usage in the landscape architecture industry as clients and governments continue to demand BIM due to foreseen savings in productivity, reduced construction waste and also for assessing lifecycle and maintenance. Using BIM in 2017 will still be on a needs basis (when the project requires it will be used), however due to shortcomings of BIM (software learning curve, surfaces & terrain modelling,) there is still more development required of the software application and workflows to tailor it to the needs of landscape architects.

Maintenance
Maintenance companies and governments will look for more efficient maintenance through data collection and analysis along with better maintenance practices and equipment to reduce their costs and pollution with a push towards more hybrid and electric equipment including rotary lawnmowers, large gang mowers, and also automated cleaning and waste systems.

Residential Landscapes
People will continue to wish to use there gardens as places to relax and increase on using the spaces for entertaining with new technology including OLED lighting, cordless audio, wi-fi, with features such as low maintenance fire pits, water features, green walls (sadly fake green walls is increasingly being used). There will also be the continued push for no to low-maintenance gardens (something of an oxymoron) which will see the increased use of artificial surfaces and also the push towards autonomous electric lawnmowers and weeders. Overall, there will be more design emphasis on local elements and varying textures shying away from the clean and slick.

These are just a few of the trends that will be influenced by landscape architects and vice-versa. As landscape architects the future is bright and we hold the key to the world’s problem through using the wide ranging skills, knowledge and expertise of our profession to find the solutions to these problems.

Author | Damian Holmes, Founder & Editor of World Landscape Architecture

Cover Image Credits
Top Left | Flickr User – Ted Eytan – Eco-Counter Install, Center for Total Health, Washington, DC 51456
Top Middle  | Flickr User – jonsson
Top Right | SLA – Nature-based Climate Adaptation Wins Scandinavia’s Biggest Architecture Award
Bottom Left | Flickr User – Ed and Eddie – Google’s self-driving car on the streets of Palo Alto, CA.
Bottom Middle | Flickr User – Kevin Krejci
Bottom Right | Flickr User – Evan Bench – A large group of Afghan refugees have begun living on the Canal Saint Martin underneath a bridge.

  • Wyrmy

    I have just graduated in Geography in the summer of 2016. What is in high demand for landscape architects and developers-is it planning, or drafting or visualization? Looking to where I might gain some skill sets needed in a construction, engineering, and or architecture firm. I have a background in environmental compliance and ecological research. Thank you-
    wp