Master of Landscape Architecture Theses

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This is a collection of Master of Landscape Architecture Theses.


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    From Wasteland to Biocultural Heritage: Negotiation by Design in Khotale, Konkan, India
    Shankar, Aishwarya (2023)
    Strategically located along the Konkan coastal region of Maharashtra in India, are biologically and culturally diverse sites of petroglyphs, roughly 10,000 years old from the Neolithic Period (Dalvi, 1990). The sites are situated in distinct laterite plateaus called ‘Sada’ which hold a unique habitat known as rock outcrop. Khotale is one such remote village in Sindhudurg that stands as a model for the complexity that capitalism, colonialism and climate change conflicts have brought about. It is inhabited by ephemeral wetlands* and goat herders (Dhangars), who are the guardians of the ecosystem. One of the major findings of the fieldwork is that since land use here is historically classified as a ‘wasteland’, the residents of the plateau face a very real threat of eviction and destruction of livelihood and important ancestral knowledge because of laterite mining. My research will examine the “thick” (Hirsch, 2016) archaeological, cultural, and ecological landscape intersections in Khotale by exploring the site of anthropogenic damage, in the form of the laterite mines, as a catalyst for landscape design. The thesis aims to decolonize the policy level wasteland classification of Khotale’s rock outcrop plateau by questioning the role of landscape architecture in this village. This is achieved by first outlining the positionality of the landscape designer, then understanding documentation as a form of advocacy in participatory spatial design methods, experimenting with landscape design as a form of negotiation between different groups and finally, a critique and reflection on these methods. This is an incomplete design process, and its effectiveness even as a test can only be understood once it reaches the hands of the stewards. Much like a manifesto or a call for action, I will end by discussing ways in which this design document is a relevant product of negotiation and accountability by outlining its future trajectories with different stakeholders.
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    The Role of the Designer in Play
    Lambert, Daniel (2016-08-16)
    This thesis endeavors to answer the question, “What, if any, is the role of the designer in facilitating play?” I base my answer to this question on years of play studies, design projects, conversations with experts, classes, conferences, seminars, travel, and careful observation. I ran an extensive literature search on play theory, design, science, philosophy, and playwork, only to discover that there was little agreement on the matter of defining play. By reviewing the ‘cited by’ tables of online resources (lists of papers that cite a given article), I was able to find a contemporary definition in line with my own understanding of play, active frivolity, which I explain in Chapter 1. Working through a complex landscape of historical interpretations of play, Chapter 2 explains the evolution of contemporary play theories and concludes with what I call Omnidisciplinary Play Theory, a synthesis of Joe Frost’s Integrated Theory of Play and Nathaniel Gindele’s Naturalistic Philosophy of Play. Omnidisciplinary Play Theory is an instructive tool for understanding the phenomenon of play, and explains it in five ways: exemplars, motives, behaviors, content, and developmental correlates. Chapter 3 argues that play is a fundamental part of a complete human experience and should be treated as a human right rather than a leisurely privilege. This has important implications for designers, namely that their duty is to allow for the widest possible variety of play in an environment designed for such purpose. Implicit in this obligation is the need to respect the agency of prospective users as designers, builders, and directors of their own space. Chapter 4 describes how meritocracies are antithetical to play and are one of the major reasons our ethical obligation to provision play is beset with systemic, societal resistance. Chapter 5 describes how external goals of value such as education are also antithetical to play. It stipulates, however, that once primary agendas of players are met, external agendas may be covertly introduced as long as said agendas are not in conflict. Chapter 6 outlines the practical applicability of the theoretical, ethical, and philosophical perspectives covered in previous chapters by translating them into actionable design guidelines. The thesis concludes by suggesting that the role of the designer in facilitating play is to understand it deeply; engage in it; practice empathy; respect the agency of players; advocate for the right to play; provision time, space, materials, and permission so as to allow for the widest possible variety of play; design exemplary playscapes; consult over the lifetime of the project; and learn from its evolution.