Visualizing Systems at Harvard GSD by Nicole Sander.

Lecture on VIS SYS at Harvard GSD

I gave a lecture yesterday at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in conjunction with my exhibit there on the project. The talk covered the project’s development during my year as Daniel Urban Kiley Fellow at the school, as well as the work on a series of parametric scripts that are the foundation for an open-source landscape architecture toolkit. These scripts will be rolled out in the script library quite soon–stay tuned!

The collection considers the three-dimensional world—and the spatial, material, and temporal complexities that come with it—in order to document visual language that balances quantitative rigor and scientific methodology with tangible experiential descriptions of the groundplane as seen at eye level. What are the relationships between cities and their ecological contexts? How can we harness the increasing power and availability of big data to map and track the relationships between urban and ecological systems, nature and culture, and landscape and infrastructure, in a way that is not only BEAUTIFUL, but also PRECISE and CONCISE? And most importantly, how can the creation of clear and concise visualizations that explain a complex and changing world help to confer a new legitimacy to architects, landscape architects, and planners as they aim to carve out more prominent roles as policy makers?

After the talk we had a great discussion about the role of representation in landscape architecture, and how to challenge landscape architecture practice to make better use of data. How can we make better use of mobile technology, iPads and iPhones, etc. to show our drawings in motion? What kinds of information can we extract from historic maps and drawings, and how does this inform contemporary work?

Thanks to all who were able to attend the talk, and for the many questions and suggestions to improve this blog and book moving forward.

For more information about the Kiley Fellowship, visit