Date of Award

Spring 6-4-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)


Landscape Architecture

First Advisor

Tiago Torres-Campos

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Dean Hermann


It is inconvenient for people with different physical abilities – such as visual or physical impairment – to wander around public spaces. Issues of accessibility deficiency are not caused by single disciplines, like design. They arise from natural, cultural, social, and political dynamics, which in turn cause a lack of empathy in society and an insufficient inclusion of people with different abilities. They are systemic problems that require systemic solutions.

Systemic thinking is an alternative way of thinking about relationships and patterns in systems. When thinking about and with systems, triggers outside the system can play an essential role in activating its evolution. When applied to landscape architecture, systemic thinking can shift perceptions that conceive design as problem-solving to its understanding as a dynamic system capable of learning from constant feedback loops between ideas, physical manifestations, and consequences. Design practice can also benefit from modeling majority-based systems and agent-based systems, which help understand patterns, relationships, and constraints.

This thesis highlights accessibility deficiencies in urban systems and experiments with systemic solutions from components of landscape architecture. It applies systemic thinking to reappraise elements in the pedestrian system – one of the various urban systems – by triggering an empathetic consciousness between pedestrians. It proposes systemic thinking as a benefit for landscape architecture by accepting it as a set of dynamic and self-generated conditions generated together with the development of urban spaces.


View exhibition online: Yu Chen, SYSTEMIC DESIGN



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