Digital Landscapes

Introduction and Rationale

Course code : ENVT1008
Course co-ordinator : David Watson
Course tutor : Duncan Drinkwater
Course weighting : 15 Credits

Landscape Architects and Garden designers need a good understanding of the ways that emerging and current technologies are changing design methods and working practices within the landscape and garden design professions. This course introduces the digital iterative design process. It is also about exploring and experimenting with new ways to experience designs for gardens and landscapes.


This course is about exploring and experimenting with new ways to experience designs for gardens and landscapes, it has a number of aims:

  • Develop digital skills within the context of medium-sized landscapes.
  • Develop a better visual understanding of landscape.
  • Improve students' understanding of working practice.
  • Explore composition with landscape elements.
  • Develop a better understanding of space, scale and proportion.
  • Understand the balance between realism and stylisation in computer models.
  • Learn how to apply narrative to their design presentations.

Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • Develop a digital design within a given landscape.
  • Test ideas in form, space, scale, colour, texture, light and time.
  • Design and present their design ideas in digital form (i.e. not on paper).
  • Employ non-traditional methods of landscape representation.
  • Construct design narratives.
  • Experiment with new software and digital techniques


The Journey is the Reward by Christine Sullivan

The course is based around 2 projects using the area of Blackheath as a site. The first introduces the idea of recording the landscape of Blackheath from your own subjective point of view. For the second project, you will build and record a narrative of an intervention that you will design on an area of the Blackheath site.

So, the course begins with your own experience of landscape and ends with you providing an experience for someone else. This course will link with the Design with Nature course as both investigate Blackheath as a site though the objectives and deliverables are different.

The image on the right is an extract from Christine Sullivan's submission for the first project in the sequence (The Journey is the Reward) where you are asked to record a journey and make a presentation that conveys your personal experience.

Some students have used video to record the journey, others have used audio, sketches and other media. Christine used a sequence of images set to music and included some well-chosen typography to convey thoughts and feelings.

The second project is all about telling a story based in a setting that you create within Blackheath. You will build a 3D model of the design and create an animated sequence. The narrative could simply be one of discovery of this new place or it could be a "happening". During the design process, students get to understand important principles such as scale, proportion, rhythm and time. No two people experience the same landscape in the same way and this course aims to provide students with an insight into the way landscapes are experienced on a personal level and not just as objective entities to be measured and manipulated.

Course Schedule

The course schedule gives an overview of the timetable, weekly topics and submission dates for this course. There may be occasional changes, so check back frequently.

BA Landscape Architecture

2015-16 Session
19th Jan 2016, 2pm to 5pm11_1014Digital studio.
26th Jan 2016, 2pm to 5pm11_1014Digital studio.
2nd Feb 2016, 2pm to 5pm11_1014Digital studio.
9th Feb 2016, 2pm to 5pm11_1014Digital studio.
16th Feb 2016, 2pm to 5pm11_1014Digital studio.
23rd Feb 2016, 2pm to 5pm11_1014Digital studio.
1st Mar 2016, 2pm to 5pm11_1014Digital studio.
8th Mar 2016, 2pm to 5pm11_1014Digital studio.
15th Mar 2016, 2pm to 5pm11_1014Digital studio.
Spring Vacation
Self Study
5th Apr 2016, 2pm to 5pm11_1014Digital studio.
12th Apr 2016, 2pm to 5pm11_1014Digital studio.
19th Apr 2016, 2pm to 5pm11_1014Digital studio.

This course element consists of twelve studio workshops each of three hours in length. Each workshop will take place in Studio 1014 on a Tuesday afternoon, starting at 2:00pm and concluding at 5:00pm (see schedule for details).

Course Documents

There are currently 7 files in this section

File Listing
  Filename Size (KB) Date Modified
3ds Max Notes.pdf 19.6 27th Aug 2019
AutoCAD 2D Drawing Exercise.pdf 40.5 27th Aug 2019
AutoCAD Exercise 2 Layout.pdf 108.0 27th Aug 2019
Autocad Exercise Street Layout.pdf 52.6 27th Aug 2019
ENVT1008_Project2_Deliverables.pdf 55.9 27th Aug 2019
Terrain.mtl 0.2 27th Aug 2019
Terrain.obj 36,278.4 27th Aug 2019

Course Materials

There are currently 12 files in this section

File Listing
  Filename Size (KB) Date Modified
AutoCAD Exercise Street Layout.dwg 76.2 27th Aug 2019
Grass.jpg 1,359.3 27th Aug 2019
Lake1.jpg 2,447.6 27th Aug 2019
Maritime Campus Model FBX.unitypackage 3,037.6 27th Aug 2019
Naval College Model.dwg 2,108.3 27th Aug 2019
Naval College Plan.jpg 126.8 27th Aug 2019
Page.gif 210.3 27th Aug 2019
Person.gif 52.2 27th Aug 2019
Sky.jpg 217.5 27th Aug 2019
Tree1.psd 1,625.4 27th Aug 2019
Tree2.psd 175.7 27th Aug 2019
Tree3.psd 188.3 27th Aug 2019


The course is divided into 2 main projects, each with its own timetable but the assessments will be made on the basis of the final portfolio submission at the end of the course. The 2 main projects are: The journey is the reward and 3D site design (to be confirmed).

Assessment for this unit will be by the methods and proportions described below:

Project Method %age of course total
The journey is the reward Crit/Portfolio 50%
3D site design Crit/Portfolio 50%

Presentation and submission dates for these projects are indicated on the course schedule.

An Important Note

This is a design course where you will be developing new skills in digital design and in the use of digital methods of presentation. It is important to understand that the course is not just about designing "things", it is about learning design methods and the process of design. When you present work for this course, you will always need to tell two different but related stories. The first is the story of the presented work. The second is your own personal story of how you designed it and the techniques you used. At each crit, you will be expected to illustrate both stories. In practical terms, this means that you should present all of the design ideas and your rough workings/sketches even if they didn't make it to the final design. The illustration of design ideas that you may have rejected is just as important as those that you adopted because it clearly illustrates your design logic and method.

The journey is the reward (project 1)

Project overview

You are to create a presentation describing an explorative journey that you have made around Blackheath. The presentation will be made from your personal (subjective) point of view. You must consider how your presentation differs from an objective view of the same journey (a more objective view will take place on the Design with Nature course which runs in tandem to Digital Landscapes). The presentation may be CD/DVD or web based and will be shown to the class during the course.

Project aim

Walking in a moving worldThe aim of the project is to allow you the freedom to convey a personal experience of the landscape as you travel through it. This project is designed to develop a visual understanding of the existing landscape, and to develop an appreciation of how the landscape may vary from person to person and from time to time. It also aims to improve your understanding of the sensual landscape (texture, colour, sound etc.). Landscape survey often requires objective consideration and although this is necessary, it is not always conducive to freedom of expression/design. In this project, you will consider the differences between your perception of a landscape, those of others and the objective view. You will also need to consider what influences caused your particular reaction to the various landscape stimuli as this will help to improve the self reflective aspect of your work. The project is also intended to improve your digital graphic and presentation skills.


Make a journey around Blackheath and record it. This may be done in any way you feel is right; photography, video, audio, sketches, a collection of found objects, textual descriptions or a combination of some or all of these things. Try to do this recording on your first visit to the site, this will allow you the luxury of observing new things for the first time. You may also include in your presentation your journey to Blackheath, taking into account your response to the surroundings and context of the site.

The presentation of your personal journey should be considered as "art". It will be your own interpretation of your journey and should draw upon any ideas or influences you consider germane. The presentation is probably best based upon a narrative of the actual journey but you are free to interpret it in any way you see fit.

Project development

This is a relatively simple project but the freedom you are given has its own problems. One way to approach the project may be to have no preconceived ideas about your presentation until after the journey has been made. This will allow you the freedom of choosing a suitable medium on the basis of what you have seen, heard or felt. In some cases, this may necessitate a second journey, taken with your preferred recording materials. Once you have gathered the materials, you may want to create a storyboard of the journey and this may also serve as a template for the presentation. Further guidance will be given at the workshop sessions.

Project assessment

The assessment for this project will be based upon the originality of your work, the visual quality and clarity of your presentation and the innovative use of software and media.

3D site design (project 2) (to be confirmed)

This project will involve taking a part of the Blackheath site and creating a design intervention in 3D. The brief and site for this will be determined later and may be linked to the Design with Nature project.

Example student work

There are currently 13 files in this section

File Listing
  Filename Size (KB) Date Modified
Ariel Flores.mp4 7,241.2 27th Aug 2019
Bethany Williams 2014.pdf 1,615.5 27th Aug 2019
Chris Dawkins.mp4 5,552.6 27th Aug 2019
David Vidal Pedrosa.mp4 4,069.4 27th Aug 2019
Evgenios Adamou.mp4 12,907.8 27th Aug 2019
Grant Beerling.mp4 8,857.6 27th Aug 2019
Jan Nowak 2014.pdf 2,543.5 27th Aug 2019
Joe Ennis 2014.pdf 608.9 27th Aug 2019
Joey Donovan.mp4 3,833.9 27th Aug 2019
Nathan Brown.mp4 2,786.4 27th Aug 2019
Nick Henley-Welch.mp4 4,396.9 27th Aug 2019
Phil Scadding.mp4 15,078.4 27th Aug 2019
Stuart Towner 2014.pdf 246.2 27th Aug 2019

The files in the listing above are examples of student work for the Garden of the Imagination project. They have been chosen to demonstrate a variety of approaches rather than being "good" or "model" submissions. All of them fall short in some element of the project assessment, so aim to do better!

Tips on video formats and file sizes

Video files created from 3D applications like 3DS Max and Bryce can be very large, in some cases over 1GB. However, this is usually too big to be run smoothly from a CD or DVD. The best way to reduce the size of your video file while maintaining good quality is to convert your video file to MP4 format. Fortunately, there is an excellent free application that does this quickly and easily. See Miro Video Converter for more information.


Boyle Family
Richard Long

General Resources

CADTutor - Tutorials for AutoCAD, Bryce etc.
Autodesk student site - Free AutoCAD student edition
Bryce 7 PLE -
SketchUp site - Free Google SketchUp
Miro Video Converter - Convert your video files to MP4 for free

Key Texts

  • The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher ¦ details
  • Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden and Jill Butler ¦ details
  • Digital Drawing for Landscape Architecture by Bradley Cantrel and Wes Michaels ¦ details
  • Google SketchUp for Site Design by Daniel Tal ¦ details
  • AutoCAD 2013 and AutoCAD LT 2013 Essentials by Scott Onstott ¦ details
  • AutoCAD 2012 & AutoCAD LT 2012 Bible by Ellen Finkelstein ¦ details
  • Adobe Photoshop CS6 for Photographers by Martin Evening ¦ details
  • Photoshop CS6 Essential Skills by Mark Galer and Philip Andrews ¦ details

The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher

The Art of Looking Sideways

A wonderful book. Every designer should own a copy. This book is a golden treasury of design ideas, anecdotes, interesting facts and fantastic images. This is a book to reach for when you're short on inspiration. A few minutes (or hours - it's difficult to put down) later, you will feel refreshed and ready for any design challenge.

The book is best described by its author: "This book attempts to open windows to glimpse views rather than dissect the pictures on the wall. To look at things from unlikely angles. References to sources are occasionally provided to keep you going. The book has no thesis, is neither a whodunnit nor a how-to-do-it, has no beginning, middle or end. It's a journey without a destination."

The Art of Looking Sideways is available at

Greenwich library: 9 copies ~ view catalogue entry

Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden and Jill Butler

Universal Principles of Design

Universal Principles of Design, subtitled “100 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach through Design” is essentially a directory of all those design terms and “buzz phrases” that you know you ought to know the meaning of. The authors have chosen 100 design ideas and concepts and devote a double-page spread to each. Concepts such as Ockhams Razor, Fibonacci Sequence, Iteration and Legibility (the basics that all designers must understand) are beautifully described and illustrated with excellent examples to illustrate each point.

This is a general design reference although website examples are used where appropriate. All students of design should read this book and all designers should at least consider it a check list for their own knowledge and understanding.

Universal Principles of Design is available at

Preview Universal Principles of Design at Google Books

Greenwich library: 5 copies ~ view catalogue entry

Digital Drawing for Landscape Architecture by Bradley Cantrel and Wes Michaels

Digital Drawing for Landscape Architecture

From the back cover: “For a hundred years, pencil, pen, markers, and watercolour have been the principal tools of representation for landscape architects and urban planners, Today, those hand-powered aids have been replaced by an array of digital tools. Digital Drawing for Landscape Architecture bridges the gap between the traditional analogue and the new digital tools and shows you how to apply timeless concepts of representation to enhance your design work in digital media.”

This book is unique in demonstrating the use of digital tools in combination to achieve high-quality results in the production of landscape drawings. Fortunately, it is also well-written by people with plenty of hands-on experience and it is beautifully illustrated in full-colour.

The book focuses primarily on Adobe Photoshop but also includes coverage of AutoCAD, Illustrator and 3DS as part of the workflow. It demonstrates a wide range of techniques (most of which are explained step-by-step) for various drawing types; design diagrams, plan/section renderings and perspectives. The book is great for beginners too, with an introductory section explaining the basic concepts such as the difference between vector and raster drawings.

Every student of landscape architecture should own a copy of this book.

Digital Drawing for Landscape Architecture is available at

Preview Digital Drawing for Landscape Architecture at Google Books

Greenwich library: 8 copies ~ view catalogue entry

Google SketchUp for Site Design by Daniel Tal

Google SketchUp for Site Design

This is a really excellent book, specifically designed for landscape architects. It demonstrates how SketchUp can be used to create 3D models of site designs by starting with the basics and slowly building towards more complex techniques. It’s also good on workflow too with a whole chapter dedicated to moving AutoCAD drawing data into SketchUp. Best of all, Google SketchUp is free, so students can build 3D models of their designs with just this book and a quick download.

The book is based upon a technique called “SketchUp Process Modeling”, which: “provides a step-by-step road map that will show you how to use the tools and functions to construct expressive models of exterior spaces and architecture. The process addresses three main areas of instruction: drafting, modeling order and organization. Mastering these skills will allow you to create models that are highly detailed and articulate, easy to work with, optimized for computer performance and organized.”

The book is really well produced with clear, full-colour illustrations. The tutorials are very good and quickly build a firm understanding of how SketchUp works. This book is highly recommended for all students of landscape architecture.

Google SketchUp for Site Design is available at

Preview Google SketchUp for Site Design at Google Books

Greenwich library: 9 copies ~ view catalogue entry

AutoCAD 2013 and AutoCAD LT 2013 Essentials by Scott Onstott

AutoCAD 2013 and AutoCAD LT 2013 Essentials

This is one of the best books for complete beginners to AutoCAD. It covers all you need to know to begin working with AutoCAD quickly and efficiently but it does so in a clear and straightforward manner. The book itself is less physically intimidating than most AutoCAD tomes at just under 400 pages but it doesn’t skimp on the essential details.

From the back cover: “You’ll learn how to draw in 2D, shape complex curves, manage objects with layers, organize with blocks and groups, add dimensions and annotation, work with layouts, plot and print, model in 3D, create realistic renderings, and much more.”

The tutorials in the book are well-paced, clear and illustrated in full-colour, giving it a friendly feel, which is great because AutoCAD can sometimes be a bit scary. Although not specifically written for landscape architects, students will find this book an excellent companion right through their course of study.

AutoCAD 2013 and AutoCAD LT 2013 Essentials is available at

Preview AutoCAD 2013 and AutoCAD LT 2013 Essentials at Google Books

Greenwich library: 8 copies ~ view catalogue entry

AutoCAD 2012 & AutoCAD LT 2012 Bible by Ellen Finkelstein

AutoCAD 2012 & AutoCAD LT 2012 Bible

AutoCAD is a very popular professional software application and it is well supported by a large number or 3rd party manuals. In an ideal world, you should look at a variety of books and decide which is best for you. However, there is one book which is sufficiently generic and that most people seem to get on with that is worth a recommendation.

The AutoCAD 2012 & AutoCAD LT 2012 Bible by Ellen Finkelstein does two jobs. First, it teaches you how to use AutoCAD in the short term and second, it provides a reliable reference for you to keep over the longer term. The book begins with the basics of opening and saving drawings and moves on to an introduction of the basic 2D drawing commands and an explanation of the various interface components. At the other end of the spectrum, it covers customising menus and programming with AutoLISP and other advanced topics. In between these two poles there is coverage of 3D modelling and rendering, plotting, data extraction etc. At over 1200 pages, it's not a pocket book but it is a book that can be relied upon to answer most questions across a range of levels.

AutoCAD 2012 & AutoCAD LT 2012 Bible is available at

Preview AutoCAD 2012 & AutoCAD LT 2012 Bible at Google Books

Greenwich library: 4 copies ~ view catalogue entry

Adobe Photoshop CS6 for Photographers by Martin Evening

Adobe Photoshop CS6 for Photographers

The title of this book is now rather misleading because it seems to imply that this is a book for photographers only. Admittedly, the original concept for the book was to introduce photographers to the digital world of Photoshop and there is still a great deal for the digital photographer. However, over the years, the book has expanded and matured into what is now probably the best single-volume text book on Adobe Photoshop for both photographers and non-photographers. This book is not just about tweaking images to make them look better (although that is included), it covers a wide range of Photoshop skills. In fact, one of the best chapters in the book, “Layers, Selections and Masking”, takes the reader beyond the confines of traditional photography and into Photomontage. The accompanying DVD includes project images from the book and video tutorials. As a comprehensive introduction to Photoshop, Martin Evening's book is hard to fault but if you prefer a more technique-based book, take a look at the “Essential Skills” book by Mark Galer and Philip Andrews.

Adobe Photoshop CS6 for Photographers is available at

Preview Adobe Photoshop CS6 for Photographers at Google Books

Greenwich library: 3 copies ~ view catalogue entry

Photoshop CS6 Essential Skills by Mark Galer and Philip Andrews

Photoshop CS6 Essential Skills

This is a relatively new book, first published in 2007 and has been written specifically for Photoshop CS3. This third edition for CS5 builds on the previous editions. It is a very good book with a great introduction to the application and to digital imaging in general, particularly useful if you're completely new to digital design. For example, it covers the effects of image compression and a discussion on image resolution – both topics that students need to understand. It is also copiously illustrated in full colour with excellent examples. It is clear, concise and easy to follow - exactly what a good textbook should be. There is very good coverage of selections and layers (two key skill areas) as well as all the other “essential skills”. The book follows up with a series of projects that you can work through in order to practice the skills learned and it comes with a DVD containing all the example images and some really useful video tutorials.

Photoshop CS6 Essential Skills is available at

Preview Photoshop CS6 Essential Skills at Google Books

Greenwich library: 6 copies ~ view catalogue entry

Bryce Tutorials

Copyright David Watson 2005–2024