Sunday, March 1, 2015

LAR 560 Conference Call with Bradley Cantrell (02.25.2015)

This week we spoke with Bradley Cantrell about his work with GSD and how he got into landscape architecture. His path was typical. As an undergrad he was a painter and computer scientist,  yet also very interested in horticulture and farming. He realized that there was a design side to environment and got his undergrad from university of Kentucky. Afterward, he went on to graduate school.

Conceptual underpinnings--- there was no way at the time to get digital illustration side to it, so he 
dove headfirst into a whole range of computation courses in 2000 at GSD. He also took courses at MIT and Harvard that dealt with computing, and ended up working for Hargreaves among others. He knew he wanted to teach and pushed himself to teach, so he came back to GSD to teach and lucked into tenure track position.

As I also would like to teach at some point in the future, I found his talk with us very inspirational.  He felt like part of the push has been in terms of landscape architecture and technology. He holds a firm belief that our profession, while wanting to engage technology, has love/hate relationship with it. I agree with him that it needs to be fostered more in profession and also have a b ig desire for profession to take technology “by the horns and guide it to move forward.” 

In terms of research, it has evolved a bit over the years, but his current research is in "responsive landscapes"--design visualization and digital workflows. The point of first book was to bridge this gap 2000-2007-- huge gap between idea that representation comes from physical analog tools (the way we draw)-- has been important to our profession as an aesthetic and an altruistic analog model.
The Process of using a drawing to represent how to construct something or our speculation about some landscape or future architecture has evolved over time. 

Some other highlights:
“While we are wanting to be cognizant of our place in the world, we also have to recognize the effects we have on it and work symbiotically with it. Technologically responsive and about understanding and mapping out ecological systems and about how as human beings we build structures in them.”

“Working methods: big issue with responsive technologies is developing models or abstractions of landscapes that allow us to act upon them. Building inventories of sites, analyzing them, and then acting upon that information. How might we build a model that is continually updating and evolving and how can we use that to create a relationship between landscape and representation?”

He also spoke at length about computational fluid dynamics and analog model of flow. James C. Scott-- “all of these technologies are all about controlling us. They all control us based on a narrowing of vision and to make decisions based on this narrow vision requires us to have a cynical view of our reality.”

I agree with him that selective reality is a conscious choice and serves as a model of our world. It is indeed a lens we build for ourselves-- extremely personal and subjective in terms of articulating our worldview (which is inherently distorted by our cognizant experiences. When he showed us the Mississippi basin model, it did seem to represent a very tangible and performance reduction of the essence of the basin and its functionality in a very distilled manner. As in the model with the alfalfa sprouts and with differentiating layers of strata, the combination of digital and analog models is a very significant leap in technology and resolving environmental issues through the interplay of science and technology.

Other highlights included:
“How do you see your work as a tool to be translated for someone who is wanting to use implementation for data to use safeties on the ground? If we cannot use tools to build and construct, we're not doing anything.”
“Telling a story that has different levels of honesty all the time--There's always a piece about it that is inherently a lie-- the key is that it isn't the central aspect of that illustration or that it is know that there is not a truth to it. The honesty comes from acknowledging the lie.”
“What do you want to express and get out of project by using drawings as a vehicle for expression?”

“Who are you following?” Great question. 

He told us that he gains a lot of inspiration from artists doing work from digital fabrication and developing autonomous art. As a former artist and someone who wears many hats artistically and scientifically, I can highly relate to this as an influencer of work and process in general.

Overall, I was enamored with his work. Although I highly doubt I will ever go to Harvard or engage in projects in such a highly-functioning way, I am extremely interested in the work he has been doing and will continue investigating it in the future. 

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