Nothing tells a story better than a picture, especially moving pictures that illustrate the forces shaping an environment over time.
Joern Langhorst, assistant professor, College of Architecture and Planning, is studying how film and 3D imaging can lead to sustainable landscape system designs that are subject to significant and non-human forces and impacts, focusing in particular on post-disaster and post-industrial landscapes.
Through a grant from the Center for Faculty Development, Langhorst purchased video equipment to study the post-wildfire recovery in Boulder County's Fourmile Canyon and other post-disaster landscapes.
His research will assemble current and historic footage of the canyon to provide a contextual view of the forces, factors and processes that formed the current landscape, and aid in the visualization, interpretation and conception of future landscape conditions and processes. "This approach emphasizes the dynamic character of place and landscape and provides an alternative to a static understanding that leads to static solutions.
The canyon film clips will be compared to static representations – such as 2D drawings -- of the same landscapes and analyze their respective strengths and weaknesses in representing qualities, conditions and processes of landscape over time.
Langhorst said the software and equipment are commonly used in other fields, but so far are not applied in landscape architecture practice or education. The use of film proved invaluable when Langhorst and his students investigated the relationship of communities, landscape practices and spaces in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
"The residents already felt victimized because they felt that they were not being heard," Langhorst said. "Our goal was to use representational media they could understand, to give them a language that allowed them to experience the possibilities."
Langhorst is creating student tutorials and classes to improve students' ability to understand and engage landscapes as an ongoing series of complex and often conflicting processes, and to think critically and reflectively about how to change them.
"Understanding what (and who) affects landscapes is critical to make better informed decisions on how to change existing conditions into preferred ones," Langhorst said. "We hope to help people understand more about the decisions they must make in order to create and respond to complex environmental change. Without this understanding there is no chance at developing ways of existing in a place that are truly sustainable."