|Abstract:||The world is currently threatened by numerous interconnected challenges, such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, social inequity, and environmental pollution. These challenges are embedded in highly interdependent systems that are complex with many dynamic interactions. In the field of landscape architecture, there is mounting evidence that an emerging approach – geodesign – can address this problem. Geodesign uses systems thinking to identify and analyze relationships among various levels of complex systems at different spatial and temporal scales. Geodesign, however, is still in its infancy. There is confusion and disagreement about what geodesign means and how to operationalize it. This confusion undermines the potential of geodesign, because it prevents people from understanding its power to uncover possible impacts of design proposal that engage complex, dynamic systems. Not understanding how to effectively utilize geodesign processes and geodesign technologies also prohibits designers and planners from making systems-oriented and problem-driven decisions to prescribe comprehensive proposals toward interconnected challenges. This lack of understanding may lead to oversimplifying a complex problem, ignoring the dynamic inter-relationships of problems, or making a problem overly complicated.
The objective of this dissertation is to strengthen the conceptual understanding, improve practical significance of geodesign, and integrate geodesign processes into the development of Planning Support Systems (PSSs). The rationale for this research lies in the potential of geodesign – if it is broadly adopted – to create resilient landscapes and communities. The research questions are generated for this dissertation: 1) how can we conceptualize and describe the relationships among geodesign, systems thinking, and resilience; 2) to what extent is geodesign effective in creating resilient landscapes and communities; 3) to what extent can design/planning technologies be enhanced by integrating geodesign principles.
For the first question, Chapter 2 reviews existing literature on geodesign, systems thinking, and resilience to develop a heuristic framework for landscape architecture. I find that geodesign is capable to encourage public participation and interdisciplinary collaboration through its systemic planning processes and synergetic technologies. The thrust of geodesign-related research is the emerging paradigm of landscape-based sustainability. This chapter contributes to the conceptual understanding of what geodesign means.
To answer the second question – to what extent is geodesign effective in creating resilient landscapes, Chapter 3 evaluates the implementation of geodesign in practice through assessing how well the geodesign implementation aligns with the systemic geodesign process, how team attributes affect the implementation, and how well resilience is represented in the design outcomes. The chapter empirically explores the practical applications of the geodesign approach in urban planning/design projects. Using content analysis, Spearman correlation, and multivariate regression, 40 projects collected from the 2019 International Geodesign Collaboration were evaluated to determine the connections between geodesign processes, team attributes, and resilience. It is found that most of the submitted projects include a comprehensive and explicit set of design objectives and a wide range of diverse strategies. Most projects, however, fail to address process relationships, raising concerns that this deficiency might reduce the diversity and dynamics of design outcomes. The evaluation also finds that projects with more robust and comprehensive design strategies scored higher in our resilience measures. The findings offer insights for designers, practitioners, and policymakers to better utilize the geodesign approach.
To answer the third research question – to what extent can design/planning technologies be enhanced by integrating geodesign principles, Chapter 4 integrates the geodesign approach with a PSS tool developed by the Land-use Evolution and impact Assessment Modeling (LEAM) lab. This paper tests the possibility that geodesign processes will improve the model and interface based on Chapters 2 and 3. To improve the widespread applications of Planning Support Systems (PSSs), this chapter proposes a procedural framework that provides a systematic and comprehensive process for PSS implementation. In this chapter, we first briefly describe the notions of geodesign, resilience, and introduce a PSS technology platform in shaping anew PSs implementation framework. We then test the robustness of the framework in a case study application in Sangamon County, Illinois. In our application we find that the proposed integration both enhanced the usefulness of the PSS and improved the overall credibility of the geodesign-based and resilient design process. This part of the research responds to the question of how to operationalize geodesign from a technological view by advancing technical development of PSSs to analyze, evaluate, create scenarios, and assess future impacts for geodesign practice.
Chapter 5 is a synthesis and conclusion on the entire dissertation with a review of the work, methods, findings, and their implications. This chapter also includes an explanation of future research.