Charlotte, N.C. — At the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the firm LandDesign is sponsoring an innovative class on how digital technology stands to radically reshape placemaking and improve designs for public space, including parks, plazas and more.

Supporting UNC Charlotte’s Master of Urban Design (MUD) program both directly and through its employees’ involvement, LandDesign — the firm known widely for visionary planning and landscape architecture, civil engineering and urban design — is helping educate future professionals taking the course, “Dilemmas in Modern City Planning: Digital Technology and Urban Activation.”

University students participating in the digital placemaking class work side-by-side with LandDesign’s experts to explore the use of time-lapse photography, onsite surveys, and mapping tools, which all help document user behaviors and needs in urban environments.

“Our partnership with UNC Charlotte offers a different lens and useful rigor for studying the impacts of digital technology on public space, and we’re working with students from diverse backgrounds, which further enhances the research results,” says LandDesign partner Richard Petersheim, PLA, a landscape architect. “We hope to uncover unexpected and interesting things that will make our designs better.”

In the MUD course, says Petersheim, students will survey a city plaza, an urban park, small-town streetscape as well as a large mixed-use development. Documenting the demographic traits and behaviors of people in the spaces — such as where they travel and congregate, and whether they use devices such as cell phones — the students are identifying key trends and opportunities for different design approaches.

LandDesign’s support and sponsorship of the course also helped facilitate a field trip to Florida with professionals from LandDesign’s Orlando office where students undertook field research at Walt Disney World Resort to see how digital technology is impacting experiences in highly programmed entertainment venues.

“The students and I really benefit from the partnership with LandDesign, because we’re learning about best practices in placemaking and how different client groups tend to look at experimentation, risk-taking and innovation,” says UNC Charlotte Professor Deb Ryan, who leads the course. “Our colleagues at LandDesign have real-time knowledge that helps direct student creativity.”

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