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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

March 2005 Issue

The Landscape in 3-D
3-D graphics are becoming more "real."

By James L. Sipes, ASLA

The Landscape in 3-D
Coastal Maine Botanic Gardens Simulations By Mark Kosmos, EDAW, Fort Collins

Traditionally, we as landscape architects have been very slow to embrace Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and 3-D computer graphics as critical parts of our day-to-day design practice. In recent years, though, we have discovered the benefits of using GIS for design and planning projects. The power of today’s GIS programs and the use of open GIS standards, combined with the vast array of digital data available via the internet, make it easier than ever before for us to ask "what if" questions about a site, regardless of how large or small it is.

However, while we may be making improvements when it comes to using GIS, we are still not doing much with 3-D computer graphics. "We are 10 years behind architects when it comes to using 3-D modeling," says Mark Kosmos, a landscape architect with EDAW's Fort Collins, Colorado, office. There are several reasons for this: 3-d modeling software can be expensive and hard to use, landscapes are much more difficult to model than are buildings, and most clients do not expect 3-D computer graphics and may not be willing to pay for this type of service.

With the advent of new digital tools such as SketchUp and ArcGIS 9, landscape architects may finally have the tools to work with 3-D computer models and may even be ready to integrate 3-D computer graphics with GIS. It is not an issue of whether we see a benefit in working with 3-D models, or of being able to create 3-D GIS applications, but of how we achieve this goal.

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