Digital Landscape Architecture Conference at Harvard GSD – The Field


by Stephen M. Ervin

Keynote speakers for DLA2022 are Mirka Beneš from the University of Texas at Austin, Anya Domlesky, ASLA, Director of Research at SWA Group, and Mitchell Joachim from Terreform ONE/NYU. / picture: DLA Conference

Digital Landscape Architecture (DLA) Conference
June 9-10, 2022
Online and in person at the Graduate School of Design (GSD), Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

Just three years ago, I first attended the Digital Landscape Architecture Conference, held in Dessau, Germany, home of the Bauhaus. At that time I was invited to speak about BIM in landscape architecture and was amazed by the diversity of the audience there to listen, see and engage. With my eyes wide open, I too learned a lot from professors, students, practitioners and various technology leaders. Shortly after this experience, our Digital Technology PPN was asked to help publicize the next conference, which will be held in the United States, at Harvard GSD. Although COVID changed the dynamic for a few years, the conference reorganized and continued virtually. While this year’s conference theme “Hybrid” describes the divided nature of learning and the dissemination of information presented, it also translates to how our practice, research and connectedness have rapidly adapted and have evolved to stay ahead of new directions in the industry. I invite you to consider the announcement below by another DLA colleague, Stephen Ervin, and sincerely consider joining the conference, virtually or in person, to learn where digital technology is headed in landscape architecture.
–Eric Gilbey, APL, ASLA, Digital Technologies Professional Practice Network (PPN) Past President

In 2020, the 21st international meeting of the Digital Landscape Architecture (DLA) conference was to be held in the United States for the very first time, at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) – having been in Europe, mainly in the Hochschule Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, near Berlin, Germany, over the previous two decades.

Of course, the 2020 conference, scheduled for June of that year, was significantly disrupted by the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Harvard and much of the United States were locked down, and the conference was held from my home office. , entirely on Zoom, so a new experience for many of us.

The DLA Conference attracts a mix of landscape architecture scholars, researchers, students, practitioners, allied professionals, technologists, scholars and interested laypeople from around the world (as of 2021, participants represented more than 45 countries in the world !). And since 2016, the conference proceedings have been published in the form of Journal of Digital Landscape Architecture (JoDLA), available online as PDF articles. DLA conferences were often held on the Bauhaus campus in nearby Dessau, the World Heritage Site of Modernist architecture and design. Visionary architect Walter Gropius was director of the Bauhaus at its peak in the 1930s, before leaving Germany just before World War II, coming to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and becoming head from the GSD Architecture Department at Harvard. University.

130 landscape architects from 30 countries attended the 20th Digital Landscape Architecture Conference in 2019. / image: DLA Conference

Harvard’s ties to the DLA conference date back to its beginnings in Germany in 1999, when Professors Stephen Ervin and Carl Steinitz, Hon. ASLA, were both present. Over the past decade, the conference venue has become more varied, and DLA has taken place in Weinstephan, Germany, Zurich, Switzerland, and Istanbul, Turkey, in between. But never again in the United States…until now!

The 23rd DLA Conference, DLA2022is scheduled for June 9-10, 2022, hosted at GSD and online (and again, sadly, amid the uncertainties of post-pandemic restrictions and travel complications).

The theme for this year’s conference is ‘HYBRID’, a recognition not only of the now ubiquitous partly online, partly in-person hybrid conference and presentation format, but more broadly of the hybridization of analog and digital. which is transforming society, with education, the practice of landscape architecture and research, cars, homes, cities, landscapes, forests and “smart” gardens being important artifacts of this transformation. The conference is expected to be a fully hybrid format, with a number of in-person attendees at the GSD (travel and other conditions permitting), and likely more online attendees, from around the world, via the new platform. ZoomEvents.

An upcoming cover from the Journal of Digital Landscape Architecture (JoDLA) illustrates the evolution of themes in the 2016-2021 publication. / picture: DLA Conference

Over 60 speakers will present a range of topics, in categories such as:

  • Algorithmic design and landscape analysis
  • Data Science and Landscape Information Modeling
  • Imaging and uses of drones/UAVs
  • Mixed reality (AR/VR) and immersive environments
  • Geodesign approaches, technologies and case studies
  • Digital Landscape Architectural Responses to Climate Change

All speakers will be accompanied by short video presentations, planned to remain available after the conference.

Three dynamic speakers will inspire and anchor discussions during the conference:

  • Mirka Benes, PhD, of the University of Texas at Austin, eminent historian, teacher and expert on hybridity in landscape architecture;
  • Anya Domlesky, ASLA, urban designer and landscape architect who is research director of the XL Innovation Lab at SWA; and
  • Mitchell Joachim, visionary urban planner and professor at NYU, who explores “the socio-ecological capacities of habitats, urban spaces and landscapes across the planet”.

Together they will represent the three essential and overlapping categories of academia, practice and research, which form the core of the DLA business.

Virtual software tutorials presented by software industry DLA sponsors, including Landsdesign, LANDAU, Laubwerk, Rhino and Vectorworks, will be offered to attendees before and after the conference. Special discounts on registration fees are offered to students and recent graduates, as well as ASLA members/affiliates. It is intended that Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System (LA CES) Continuing Education Credits will be available to ASLA Members/Affiliates, both in-person and online.

An annual student poster competition will feature creative works from students around the world, addressing many imaginative dimensions of hybrid digital landscape architecture. And, public health and weather permitting, in-person attendees can enjoy a Sunset BBQ Banquet with live music, in the GSD courtyard, on Thursday evening, June 9.

The conference organizers are eager to attract members of the design community, including scholars, practitioners, researchers and allied professionals, either in person where possible, or online!

For more information, see or email [email protected]

Stephen M. Ervin, MLA, PhD, is Associate Dean of Information Technology at Harvard Design School, Director of Computing Resources, and Lecturer in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Designand the DLA2022 conference chair.


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