SCI 6241. Ecologies, Techniques, Technologies III: Ecology and the Design World

Fall term, four units, required for both MLA 1 and MLA AP students taking the third LA core-studio.

Ecological Principles for Design (Steven Handel). The fundamentals of ecological science are introduced towards investigating, understanding, and shaping landscape structure, function and change. Through lectures, discussions, and readings, the core principles of ecological science relevant to designing landscapes from small to large scales are introduced and integrated, from populations to communities and ecosystems, and the landscape ecological linkages among sites.  Topics will include plant species reproduction and evolution, the relevance of biodiversity to landscape function and management, stresses facing designed landscapes, and the added values of ecological perspectives.   We will discuss the particular problems and opportunities of urbanized landscapes, a dominant arena for modern landscape design work, as well as differences between natural and human-dominated landscapes.  Disturbances, including climate change and sea level rise, intrude on ecological landscape design and these processes must be included into site planning.  Site analysis activities must include living and abiotic components of the ecosystem; how should this be addressed on your sites?  Pragmatically, what can each site plan include for better ecological functioning?  How can ecological needs be integrated with the other concerns of modern landscape design?
Readings will supplement lectures and introduce the concerns of modern ecology as they relate to design challenges. Exercises will explore species requirements as part of the design agenda, and the application of ecological structures into studio exercises.   A local field trip will give us an experience in ecological analysis of a habitat.

An Introduction to Woody Plants as a Design Medium (Chris Matthews) Recognizing that plants are one of the essential mediums of landscape architecture, this module seeks to introduce the student to the relationships between plants and people (horticulture); and the relationships between plants and the environment (ecology). The class focuses on the following topics and objectives: Concepts, and practices necessary for using woody plants as a design medium; an introduction to the spatial, visual, functional, temporal, and sensorial qualities of woody plants in the landscape; an introduction to the horticultural requirements of woody plants particularly as it relates to the urban environment; techniques and practices for using woody plants in the designed landscape. The additional session taught by Chris Matthews is taken only by MLA AP students.


Christopher Matthews






T 8:30-10:00; T 10:00-11:30; W 1:00-2:30

Course ID: 


Subject Area: 

Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning

Research Areas: 

  • [Course titles in brackets] indicate that the course is not scheduled to be taught during the 2020-2021 academic year, but may be offered in an alternate year.
  • An asterisk (*) before a course number indicates that a student must obtain the instructor's permission in order to enroll in the course.

Harvard University
Center for the Environment

Address: 26 Oxford Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge
Phone: (617) 495-0368

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