LandDesign sponsoring MUD class to study digital placemaking

Monday, February 11, 2019

The multidisciplinary design firm LandDesign is sponsoring a class this semester in the Master of Urban Design program to study digital placemaking. Led by Professor Deb Ryan, students in “Dilemmas in Modern City Planning: Digital Technology and Urban Activation” will work with LandDesign team members to explore the impact of technology on the design of public space.

“As a creative firm, we value curiosity, innovation and exploration because we know it leads to unexpected and interesting things that make our work better,” said LandDesign partner Richard Petersheim. “Our partnership with the Master of Urban Design program at UNC Charlotte will provide a different lens and rigor for studying the impacts of digital technology on public space. We are particularly excited that this program draws students from diverse professional backgrounds to engage with our team in thinking about the urban environment in a variety of ways that we believe will enhance the results of this research. We are excited to see what trends we might uncover together.”

Working in pairs, students will use time-lapse photography and on-site surveys and mapping to observe and record public behavior in five different types of sites:

  • an urban square (Thomas Polk Park at Trade and Tryon Streets)
  • an urban park  (Romare Bearden Park)
  • a linear park  (Little Sugar Creek Greenway at Midtown)
  • a small town streetscape (Main Street/Fountain Park in Rock Hill, South Carolina)
  • developer-driven destinations (Kingsley multi-use development in Fort Mill, South Carolina)

Students will seek to identify trends across different types of spaces as they document the number and demographic traits of people in the spaces, where people congregate in the spaces and whether or not and how they use cell phones or other devices.

“The students and I really benefit from the partnership with LandDesign, because we are learning about best practices in placemaking and how different client groups tend to look at experimentation, risk-taking and innovation,” said Ryan. “Our colleagues at LandDesign have real-time knowledge that helps direct the students' creativity.”

LandDesign is a national firm that offers urban design, planning, landscape architecture, civil engineering and branding. The company employs more than 150 professionals, with offices in Washington, D.C.; Dallas, Texas; Orlando, Florida; San Francisco, California; and Boulder, Colorado.

“Having a program like UNC Charlotte’s Master of Urban Design located in such close proximity to our headquarters office presents a great opportunity to partner with a program we know is accessible and passionate about exploring the built environment,” said Ashley Clark ’05, ’06, director of strategic development for LandDesign and an alumna of the University’s School of Architecture. “One thing I think is unique about this is that we have a number of employees who will be directly engaged with the studio through both digital and physical dialogue throughout the coursework. Beyond the topical research, we hope to learn some things about leveraging collaboration platforms to enhance group exploration.”

Among the students' activities to be funded with the $27,500 sponsorship will be a field trip to Florida in late February to meet with LandDesign staff to learn about the use of digital technology in Disney parks.