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Autodesk InfraWorks is a relatively new program that provides an extremely powerful yet relatively simple 3D visualisation environment for importing and rendering extremely large datasets in real time. Beginning with the data of existing site conditions, InfraWorks provides a live-rendered virtual environment for importing complex topographic data, high resolution aerial photography, GIS shapefiles, CAD drawings as well as a number of other data types, for synthesising existing site conditions for discussion with clients and project teams.
Alternative concepts for path and plaza locations, road alignments, areas of mass planting and building massing can be quickly explored via InfraWorks’ built-in modelling tools. By sharing a model via InfraWorks 360, models can be viewed in any internet browser, even on computers that do not have InfraWorks installed. I’ve always believed landscape architects are great synthesisers of information, able to view the bigger picture when other professionals can become bogged down in their own profession-specific agendas. Jason Packenham is a Landscape Architect at Corkery Consulting and design studio tutor in the Bachelor of Landscape Architecture program at the University of New South Wales. Throughout history—with the exception of the great Olmsted, of course—it seems that landscape architects seldom find their way into the design spotlight. When working in the public arena, architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) professionals, including landscape architects, continue to jostle for position in large multidisciplinary projects. Land8 is pleased to present Digitising Landscape Architecture, a weekly series that aims to raise awareness and stimulate discussion on the types of software available to landscape architects, from computer aided design (2D and 3D CAD) to Building Information Modelling (BIM).

As a practicing landscape architect, I have grappled with figuring out the most effective way to use different kinds of design and drafting software available. In addition to the more CAD-centric software packages, there is also a suite of programs that provide quick and easy tools for conceptual and detailed modelling, such as Trimble SketchUp or Autodesk InfraWorks, both of which can form an integrated part of the design process. In the coming weeks, the Digitising Landscape Architecture series will explore some of the software options available to landscape architects.
Additionally, landscape architects can present and analyse their designs within InfraWorks with the surrounding terrain features, transportation networks, and buildings fully modelled at the block, neighbourhood, city, or regional level. This allows landscape architects to share models with clients, stakeholders and collaborating professionals for review. This allows the conceptual models explored within InfraWorks to be incorporated as the first step in the detailed design phase within other applications. Not only can InfraWorks form an important part of the workflow of a landscape architect, it can also provide an opportunity for landscape architects to reposition themselves within project teams, acting as synthesisers of multiple disciplines to bring all elements of the project to realisation within a digital environment able to be rendered in real time. Autodesk seems to have recognised the ability of InfraWorks to play a large role in the AEC industry, so future releases should continue to include more features related to the work of landscape architects. As landscape architects, we may need to be willing to break from the standard training of particular software packages and embrace new technologies and workflows, as well as rethink how we collaborate with other professionals and participate in project teams, if we are to significantly affect project outcomes.

On one hand, we have the programs that appear dedicated for architecture, such as Revit or ArchiCAD, that are often used when working in close collaboration with architects or on urban sites with hardscapes. These programs offer functions that more specifically relate to landscape design, such as planting and irrigation specific tool palettes and scheduling functions. On the other hand, we have software that is also dedicated for civil engineering, such as Civil 3D or GEOPAK, that offer the landscape architect tools for site analysis, planning and design--although these are generally more tailored towards our engineering colleagues. The UK Government, for instance, is now requiring collaborative 3D BIM on all public sector construction projects by 2016. Until now, the profession of landscape architecture has been slow to engage with BIM. Others, finding comfort in knowing that there are developers out there engaging more directly with landscape architects, excitedly jump into new software packages with tools tailored to their work. This is due, in part, to the poor definition of the concept of BIM and its potential application to landscape architecture, as well as a lack of landscape-specific BIM functions provided in some of the mainstream software packages.

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