- Associated Press - Thursday, November 26, 2015

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - In their first semester of graduate school, five first-year landscape architecture graduate students are working with a landscape where no human has been - Mars.

Student Caley Hyatt said she never thought she’d be working with Mars as a University of Tennessee landscape architecture student. But the more she learned about the planet, the less far-fetched it seemed. After all, she said, it’s good to be prepared for the future of her career.

Fellow student Brian Stovall agreed.

“We might be working on Mars in 50 years,” he said

From the Mars rovers to “The Martian” movie, there’s attention on the planet, said Justine Holzman, the adjunct assistant professor in landscape architecture who teaches the class.

She said she came up with the project to push the students creatively and get them comfortable using tools at the UT Fab Lab, a facility on North Gay Street filled with cutting-edge equipment like 3D printers and laser cutters for architecture and design students to use.

Plus, Holzman said, NASA has a lot of geographic data about Mars that’s open to the public, making it easy to have a “lens into the planet.”

Her students agreed they didn’t know much about Mars going into the project, but through research were able to combine landscape architecture and science for a new look at their field.

The students used elevation data and satellite imagery to create wooden and plaster topographical models with Fab Lab equipment. They then each created a device, using more tools at the lab that would somehow alter the landscape from adding plants to creating pockets of Earthlike atmosphere to finding ways to build temporary domes.

For Paul Bamson, a fifth-year architecture student who is also starting graduate classes, the Mars project stressed how science and landscape architecture influence each other.

The landscape is more than the surface of a place, Bamson said.

Although it’s the first time she’s included a project like this in her syllabus, Holzman said it’s a project that could be repeated and involve faculty and students from science disciplines as well.

And the next step will be to address how the Mars projects might inform designs on Earth for areas like nuclear waste zones or places with extreme weather conditions, Holzman said.

She said addressing disturbed and depleted landscapes is a big conversation in landscape architecture academia. She said the profession wants to figure out what to do with extreme environments or areas where change is irreversible.

“We know that humans change the surface of the Earth,” Holzman said.


Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, https://www.knoxnews.com

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