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11170 Landform

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2020 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Design, Architecture and Building: Architecture
Credit points: 6 cp
Result type: Grade and marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


This subject concerns the design of topography from the perspective of landscape architecture. It provides an introduction to the physical properties, design applications and expressive capacities of landform. Students acquire the skills and knowledge needed to manipulate land in ways that address function, environmental performance and personal expression.

The subject is designed around the investigation of a range of topographic archetypes, such as slopes, ramps, stairs, terraces, etc. These are encountered through the study of local and international examples of landscape architecture. The study of projects in person and via published materials provides the basis for an understanding of each archetype's design principles, codes and standards, and associated best practice.

A practical approach to learning is adopted throughout the subject. This involves experimenting with two- and three-dimensional representational forms and techniques to generate, analyse and communicate topographies. Throughout the process of experimentation, students are encouraged to develop an integrated approach to the use of analogue and digital techniques, combining hand-drawn studies, digital production methods and physical model-making.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

On successful completion of this subject, students should be able to:

1. Acquire a basic understanding of the physical principles, codes and standards, and best practice associated with a selection of topographic archetypes
2. Employ a range of site and desk based strategies to document and analyse a site’s topography in a comprehensive and physically accurate manner
3. Experiment with an iterative design process focused on the development of ideas at scale across two and three dimensions, using a combination of digital and analogue techniques
4. Manipulate an existing landform in order to achieve intended practical and expressive outcomes
5. Create physically accurate and materially expressive two and three dimensional representations of existing and proposed land forms, using disciplinary conventions and scale to good effect

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject also contributes to the following Course Intended Learning Outcomes:

  • Apply an informed, ethical position towards social, technical and environmental issues and practices. (A.1)
  • Create designs that respond to their context in formally or conceptually innovative ways. (I.1)
  • Advance ideas through an exploratory and iterative design process. (I.2)
  • Develop advanced skills for the production, presentation and documentation of work. (P.1)
  • Generate solutions to complex problems through an exploratory and iterative design process. (P.2)
  • Define and apply appropriate design research methods. (R.1)

Teaching and learning strategies

How to read the subject’s documentation?

This document, the subject outline, provides key information about 11170. It must be read carefully and will need to be referred to throughout the teaching session. It includes information about:

  • what students should aim to achieve
  • how the subject's content relates to the Landscape Architecture course's degree structure
  • how students will be taught
  • how students should approach their learning
  • the subject's assessment tasks (in summary)
  • the subject's study program in calendar form
  • the content of each class, including information about preperation for class (in summary)
  • the subject's mandatory requirements
  • the subject's key texts and resources

In addition to the subject outline, students will be provided with supplementary hand outs for each of the subject’s assessment tasks. These will be made available through UTS Online.

How is the subject structured?

The subject is structured around a series of inter-related assessment tasks, each broken down into a number of steps. These steps build on one another in material and conceptual terms, week by week. It is, therefore, important students remain organised, following the subject’s study program so not to fall behind. The approach has a number of benefits. Organising assessment tasks across incremental steps breaks-down learning and the process of producing work into a series of manageable parts. For each step students will be asked to complete an activity by a specified date, building on previous work and/or laying the foundation for a subsequent step. Students receive written and verbal instruction, and the delivery of lecture content is aligned to the activity at hand.

How are classes structured?

Classes are divided into different elements. The combination of these will vary depending on where classes fall during the session. Most classes will commence with a lecture lasting 1 hour. During this time key information will be relayed and examples of best practice communicated. Students should develop comprehensive notes for each lecture.

The remaining 2 hours of class time will ordinarily be dedicated to tutorials and class wide discussions addressing work in-progress. Discussions both at the scale of a tutorial (2-3 people) and the whole class are envisaged as collaborate learning experiences. Their success is dependant on positive and constructive participation from all.

Design is an inherently social activity centred on the use of visual and verbal forms of communication. During class students should aim to further develop their capacity to converse with others in a constructive manner. Students will be expected to share their thoughts about their own work, the work of fellow students and the realised projects’ of accomplished designers, such as those shown in lectures.

Students are expected to be working during class time. When not engaged in one of the subject’s structured forms of teaching students should continue developing their work independently. Time is precious - use it wisely!

At a number of points during the session classes will take place in a computer lab or the fabrication workshop. During these sessions students will receive tuition in a range of techniques relevant to design practice: digital drawing and modelling, and physical modelling, respectively. These sessions will vary in their degree of formality, ranging from the completion of specified tasks, to open tutorials where students can gain assistance tailored to their progress, both under the direction of specialist instructors.

Please note: in order to use the fabrication workshop students must have completed an induction. Inductions will be offered during the Orientation Week for those yet to complete mandatory training.

What preparation is needed for class?

The work produced for each of the program’s steps forms the basis of discussions in class. It is the responsibility of each student to arrive at class having completed the work specified for that day. Failure to do so will place limits on discussion and, by extension, the class’s ability to learn.

Alongside producing work for the subject’s assessment tasks, there will be times throughout the session when students will be asked to undertake additional preparatory activities. These may involve reading an assigned text, independently visiting a landscape project in Sydney, or undertaking research in the UTS library. Although the outcomes of these activities are not marked, if executed properly, they will positively contribute to a student’s academic development and improve the quality of work produced for the subject’s assessment tasks.

A number of resources will be made available through UTS Online. Students should familiarise themselves with these materials at the outset of the subject. This includes cadastral information, readings, computer tutorials, fabrication guides and precedents.


There will be numerous opportunities for students to receive feedback during the session. The feedback provided will vary in form, purpose and in its degree of formality:

a) Formative Feedback

Formative feedback is provided during the learning process, when work for an assessment task is in production. It takes the form of comments, suggestions and directions, given in class to help students refine and improve their work prior to submission. For this to occur students need to respond constructively to the feedback provided. This involves critically reflecting on advice given and, where necessary, altering their approach.

It will typically be provided verbally by the subject's teaching staff, but will also, on occasion, be provided by other students. It is delivered informally, either in conversation during a tutorial or in the course of discussion at the scale of the whole class. Students should keep a written record of the feedback they receive. If a student is confused about a particular aspect of their feedback they should seek clarification from the teaching team. Ideally this should be done when feedback is being delivered. Alternatively, clarification can be sought in person at the end of class or after class via email.

b) Summative feedback

Summative feedback focuses on assessment outcomes. It is used to indicate how successfully a student has performed in terms of specific assessment criteria. It is provided in written form for all assessed work. It is published along with indicative grades online at UTS REVIEW. The content of summative feedback serves a number of purposes. It is intended to provide an explanation for the grade issued, reflecting on the quality of the work submitted and the student’s performance leading up to submission. Students are also provided with strategies for improving aspects warranting attention, or the further advancement of identified strengths. Students should direct any queries about summative feedback to the subject deliverer. In the first instance this should be done by email.

Content (topics)

  • Approaches to topographic analysis and documentation: forms, techniques and conventions
  • Archetypal topographic forms: in theory and through and examination of built examples
  • Design principles, building codes and standards for commonly used topographic forms
  • Design processes for landform manipulation, across digital and analogue domains
  • Topographic representational strategies: tools for investigation and communication


Assessment task 1: Slope Conditions - Land formations


Students are challenged to develop a detailed physical, material and experiential understanding of an assigned topography. This understanding will be evidenced through a range of 2 and 3 dimensional representations. Students will be tutored on how to survey a site, analyse a topography and represent landform through drawings and models. Throughout the course of this task students should seek to refine their judgement of dimension, scale, grade and form, and further their ability to describe these aspects of landform through a range analytical and summative representational outputs.


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

2, 3 and 5

This task also addresses the following course intended learning outcomes that are linked with a code to indicate one of the five CAPRI graduate attribute categories (e.g. C.1, A.3, P.4, etc.):

I.1, I.2, P.1, P.2 and R.1

Type: Design/drawing/plan/sketch
Groupwork: Group, individually assessed
Weight: 40%

8 weeks.

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
SURVEY - Survey methods are used in an investigative manner to arrive at a comprehensive, detailed and accurate description of the study site. 20 2 R.1
DIAGNOSTICS - Analytical strategies are used to translate personal site based observations into a series of technical, measured and scale drawn accounts of the site’s topography. 20 2 I.2
TRANSLATION - Information described in two-dimensional representations is critically used to inform the production of a three-dimensional digital model of the site. 20 3 P.2
MANIFESTATION - A critical interpretation of the site’s topography is represented at scale in the form of a physical transect model. The area selected for representation by the model speaks to the site’s defining characteristics. 20 5 I.1
DOCUMENT - The assessment task’s deliverables and their associated working processes are professionally documented in a logical and clear manner through the use of imagery and supporting explanatory text. 20 5 P.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 2: to Step/Ramp/Batter/Terrace/Slope


Students are challenged to develop a technically resolved topographic design in response to a specified design problem. To do this students will draw on the skills and knowledge acquired in AT1. The final design will integrate a number of specified landform types in a manner that is functional, responsive to the site's existing topography, and critically informed by Australian design standards.


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

1, 3, 4 and 5

This task also addresses the following course intended learning outcomes that are linked with a code to indicate one of the five CAPRI graduate attribute categories (e.g. C.1, A.3, P.4, etc.):

A.1, I.1, I.2, P.1 and R.1

Type: Design/drawing/plan/sketch
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 60%

6 weeks

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
PROPOSITION - The solution constitutes a practical, expressive and site responsive solution to the specified topographic problem. 20 5 I.1
PROCESS - The solution has been arrived at through an iterative process of design. This is centred on the combined use of two and three-dimensional forms of representation. These have been subject to technical analysis and evaluation. 20 3 I.2
KNOWLEDGE - The solution has been critically informed by an understanding of Australian standards, and the principles and applications associated with prescribed landform typologies. 20 1 A.1
RESOLUTION - The development of a physically resolved proposal that is effectively integrated into the site’s existing topography. 20 4 R.1
REPRESENTATION - The proposal is described in a comprehensive and precise manner using professional representational forms and conventions. 20 5 P.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Minimum requirements


The Faculty of DAB expects students to attend at least 80% of the scheduled contact hours for each enrolled subject. Achievement of subject aims is difficult if classes are not attended. Where assessment tasks are to be presented personally in class, attendance is mandatory.

Pursuant to “UTS Rule 3.8.2”, students who do not satisfy attendance requirements, may be refused permission by the Responsible Academic Officer to be considered for assessment for this subject.

Late and Incomplete Assignments

Assignments submitted after the due time/date will incur the late penalties listed below. Late submissions will not incur the late penalties listed, only if a formal extension of time has been granted by the Subject Coordinator. This should be approved BEFORE the submission deadline where possible. Work submitted more than 5 working days after the stated submission date, will not be accepted for assessment unless a formal extension of time has been granted by the Subject Coordinator on receipt of a Special Consideration Form.

(Please refer to the “Exemptions and Absence” and “Special Consideration” sections of the DAB Subject Information Book).

Late Penalties

Work submitted up to 5 days* later than the deadline should have an “Extensions and Absence form” attached (with appropriate Doctor’s Certificate or equivalent documentation). Depending on the circumstances, the Subject Coordinator may apply the following penalties:

Up to 1 day late: 10% late reduction **(24 hours from the specified deadline)

Up to 2 days late: 20% late reduction

Up to 3 days late: 30% late reduction

Up to 4 days late: 40% late reduction

Up to 5 days late: 50% late reduction

Over 5 days late: NOT ACCEPTED

• The 10% per day penalty is applied to the mark that would have been received if the submission had been on time.

• Any work submitted after 5 working days late would need a ‘Special Consideration’ document to be accepted for assessment.

• Students cannot expect to receive verbal or written feedback for work submitted more than 5 days late.

* If equipment or software is not available for students to complete the late work, then the Subject Coordinator may decide to exclude weekends from the number of days late in calculating the penalty.

** Where no exact time is specified for a deadline it will be assumed that the deadline is 9am on the date specified.

Required texts

Brejzek, T. 2012, Architecture models: construction and design manual, DOM Pub., Berlin.

Dee, C. 2011, Form and farbic in landscape architecture: a visual introduction, Spon Press, London.

Hensey, P. 2016, Construction detailing for landscape and garden design: surface, steps and margins, Routledge, New York.

Hutchison, E. 2011, Drawing for landscape architecture: sketch to screen to site, Thames & Hudson, New York.

Karssen, A. 2014, Model making, conceive, create and convince, Frame Publishers, Amsterdam.

Kirkwood, N. 1999, The art of landscape detail: fundamental practices and case studies, Wiley, New York, USA.

Littlewood, M. 1993, Landscape detailing, Butterworth Architecture, Oxford.

McLeod, V. 2008, Detail in contemporary landscape architecture, Laurence King, London, UK.

Mola, F. 2012, 1000 Details in landscape Architecture: a selection of the world's most interesting landscaping elements, Firefly Books, Richmond Hill, Canada.

Morrish, W.R. 1996, Civilizing Terrains: Mountains, Mounds and Mesas, William Stout Publishers.

Petschek, P. 2008, Grading for landscape architects and architects, electronic book, Birkhauser, Basel, Switzerland.

Scott, N. 1967, Understanding maps, Wills and Hepworth, Loughborough.

Sharky, B.G. 2014, Landscape site grading principles: grading with design in mind, electronic book, John Wiley & Sons, London, UK.

Strom, S., Nathan, K., & Woland, J. 2013, Site engineering for landscape architects (6th edition), electronic book, John Wiley & Sons, London.

Vogt, G. & Foxley, A. 2010, Distance and engagement: walking, thinking and making landscape, Lars Mueller Publishers, Baden.

Zimmerman, A. 2009, Constructing landscape: materials, techniques, structural components, Birkhauser, Basel.

Other resources tutorial: Rhino Project: Architectural Site & Envelope