Research

My passion for cities and the natural environment inspires much of the work I take on. A life-long curiosity about the creative process fuels my working methods and my love of making.

My research and practice embeds rigorous analysis and principles of landscape ecology into contemporary landscape and urban design. By generating projects in the built environment that perform in terms of ecological fitness, design innovation and in environmental stewardship I’m working to test existing methods, push new ideas and discover hybrid models of practice. As an educator, I’m also highly focused on learning and more specifically, trying to understand how design ideas are formed, tested and communicated across industries. My work over the last decade has been centered on this convergence – conceptual thinking in the academy and the fusion of landscape ecology and creative design in practice. And because so much conventional work being done in communities around the globe is aimed primarily at short-term economic gain, my practice, teaching and scholarship is concerned with finding ways to put analytical tools  – and therefore ecological agency – in the hands of communities so they can best reach their long-term goals.

Rapidly growing urban populations and subsequent impacts to social, ecological and cultural systems have produced an acute need for the fields of environmental design. Communities across the globe struggle to evolve in ecological balance, as they face enormous growth pressure and competition. The shrinking peri-urban and rural areas that they are intimately linked to also face a host of serious concerns. The need for healthier, humane, dynamic, current and accessible public space, created within a framework of cultural and ecological heritage in these environments, has arguably never been more pressing. By natural extension, the need for the next generation of designers to be engaged with this context is acute. While conventional narratives in design at such a large scale tend to insert predetermined infrastructural principles and methods, my work instead operates within frameworks of phenomenology and informal tactics to advance the field through a combination of analytical site reading, rigorous ideation and through empathy driven principles of design. I contend through my body of work, that the inquiry, understanding, and shaping of solutions to these major design problems is inextricably linked to design education, and provides appropriate context and training for future generations of environmental stewards and practitioners. With that, my scholarship is focused on three key intersectional themes: 1. Critical Practice, 2. Design Process and Communication, and 3. Design Pedagogy.

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Site development and ownership concept diagrams – La Prusia, Nicaragua. From “Total Latin American Architecture” Ed. Ana de Brea, Actar 2016. Drawings by Dane Carlson.

1. First, based on my diverse experience in practice, I have published, presented and exhibited a wide array of my professional work – in particular my ongoing project in La Prusia Nicaragua – appears as a chapter in the book “Total Latin American Architecture” by Ana de Brea, published in 2015 by Actar, as well as online and in conference publications around the world, including the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture and Metropolis Magazine. As far back as 2009, my informal design work in a São Paulo Favela was published in SLUMlab Journal at Columbia University, and more recently, I have published and been recognized internationally for my work that engages cultural heritage in post-industrial sites including the European Architectural Envisioning Association, with forthcoming publications in the Italian Magazine Domus and an invited article in a special issue of Topos where I illustrate the hybridity between post-industrial landscapes and contemporary development pressure. More current work examines the inevitable potential of big-data, sensors, and the smart-cities movement with the publication of “Inclusiveness in Robotic Urbanism: Rediscovering Urban Space through Interactive Data Driven Installations” in the European Design Communication Association, and a submission in the Chicago Architecture Biennial in 2015. As it relates to profound landscape implications and feeding the projected expanding global population of 9 billion by the year 2050, I will also submit an Exhibition Review of Expo Milano 2015, the World Expo, which last year was based on problematizing global food demands to the International Journal of Food Design in Fall 2016.

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“Public Sphere” – Lakefront Kiosk Competition, Chicago Architecture Biennial 2015. Collaboration between LANDMASS and WiTO.

2. Second, in my teaching and scholarship on Design Process and Communication, I have published a series of articles, chapters and given numerous lectures and presentations around the globe. My community charrette methods are laid out in a chapter entitled “Design Through Ambiguity: Rapid Digital Modeling as a Conceptual Design Tool” in Michel Mounayar’s 2013 book, Design as a Social Act. I trace the evolution of charrette methods from analog to the digital age in an article published by the Design Communications Association in 2014. Another 2014 article entitled “The Design Grotesque” builds on Bruce Mau’s assertion that “Every accident provides a brief moment of awareness of real life…” by recording mechanical tolerances that lead to object- based “failures” in a series of failure-based 3D printing exercises, published by The Architectural Science Association. Interrogating the metacognitive value of rapid digital modeling and 3D printing, my recent work on the pedagogical implications of non-linear automation “Investigating the Digital/Analog/Cognitive Collision through codified CNC Mill Watercolor Painting” was awarded Best Paper at the 49th International Conference of the Architectural Science Association.

I am the curator of a traveling exhibition entitled Thinkfast, which showcases a gradient of conceptual design thinking methodologies through previously unpublished work by both emerging designers and such established practitioners as James Corner, Chris Reed and Michael Van Valkenburgh, among many others. Thinkfast explores the nature of rapid conceptual thinking in contemporary design practice and education. With much of the field focused on the proliferation of hyper-real, super polished rendering techniques that, at times, distract viewers from the design’s conceptual void, my scholarship deconstructs the early processes of argumentative visual design and communication in order to reignite pedagogical discussions about design fundamentals and morphologies. Thinkfast was exhibited at Parsons The New School and Kansas State University in 2016, with more venues confirmed in the next academic year. I presented my paper “Collecting the Big Idea: an Exhibition of Conceptual Visualization in Contemporary Practice and Education” at the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture and at the Design Communication Association Biannual Conference in 2016. Following that conference, I will submit an edited manuscript based on that paper entitled “Conceptual Visualization in Contemporary Practice and Education” to the Journal of Landscape Architecture, JoLA as a Visual Essay in the Thinking Eye category in 2016. My forthcoming book “Conceptual Landscapes” is currently under review with three publishing companies and is on track to have secured a contract by the end of 2016.

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“ThinkFast” Exhibition 2015

3. Third, my scholarship of Design Pedagogy continues to expand. Due to brisk growth in digital literacy and in the interface between digital and physical media content through mobile devices over the last decade, this field is a well-spring of opportunity. I began testing quick-response and sensor based coding as a means of crowd-sourcing academic assessment and community participation data in a 2012 technical report “Quick Response Design Review” supported by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness at Ball State University. Later a Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture paper and presentation, the project was published by Landscape Architects Network in a 2013 online article. In 2014, I began a collaborative national study that lead to a series of publications, first, “Factors impacting students’ decisions to stay or leave the design studio” at the Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture and later selected as a top paper for the forthcoming Landscape Research Records #4. My article entitled “Non- Traditional Students and Design Studio Pedagogy: How Can We Make the Design Studio More Inclusive” was published by the Council on Education, Research and Innovation in 2015. Due to a greater understanding of social media use that resulted from the study, I was lead author on an interdisciplinary Panel Session entitled “The Why’s, Do’s, and Don’ts of Social Media in Design Education” at the 2014 Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture National Conference in Kansas. In anticipation of significant capitol investment in classroom facilities at Ball State University, I was recently invited to design and help facilitate an ongoing phased occupancy study in a selection and design of Integrated Learning Spaces on campus. The first in a series of articles that resulted from this study is entitled “Phased-Occupancy Phenomenological Inquiry of Learning Space” and was recently published by Higher Education Institutional Research. My learning-space studies have yielded an array of data that has lead to a series of key correlations and is therefore providing the foundation for several distinct forthcoming publications. “Social Factors That Determine Studio Use Among Design Students” that will be submitted to Design Studies and “Technological Factors That Determine Studio Use Among Design Students” that will be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal in the field of pedagogy in 2016.