Design as research strategy in landscape architecture


Research through design (RTD) is a frequently used concept in the day-to-day practice of education and research in the field of landscape architecture. RTD as a concept usually refers to a research method in which spatial design plays the leading role. The underlying premise is that design is a form of research and involves a culture of thought. Though there is a wealth of literature available on the relationship between research and design, there is a dearth of literature addressing the act of design as a research process in the field of landscape architecture. This research contributes to the RTD discourse by addressing how spatial design can be applied as a research strategy. The research positions design as a form of research and identifies how design relates to other more conventional definitions of research methods. It elaborates on RTD as a concept and the types of knowledge that it generates. The research also addresses the design process and design methods in landscape architecture. In addition, criteria for accepted, responsible research are translated into practical requirements that can guide RTD processes in academic and professional contexts. In order to continue developing landscape architecture as a design discipline, it is important that the theoretical, methodological, and technical foundations of spatial design are clarified and strengthened.


Research through design does not consist purely of design, but also of a systematic search for the most effective and efficient solution to the problem that has been posed. During this search, following principles of abductive logic, both the problem and the objective can be refined or changed (Image: Nijhuis & De Vries, 2020)

Further reading

To download:     
  • Nijhuis, S & De Vries, J (2020) Design as Research in Landscape Architecture. Landscape Journal 38(1) (in press).
  • Nijhuis, S, & Bobbink, I (2012) Design-related research in landscape architecture, J. Design Research vol. 10, no. 4; 239-257.   
  • Nijhuis, S, Stolk, E & Hoekstra, MJ (2017) Teaching Urbanism: The Delft approach. Urban Design and Planning, 170 (3), 96-106. (Awarded Reed & Mallik Medal 2018) 
  • Nijhuis, S, Vries, J de & Noortman, A (2017) ‘Ontwerpend onderzoek’, in: Simons, W & Van Dorp, D (red.), Praktijkgericht onderzoek in de ruimtelijke planvorming. Methoden voor analyse en visievorming. Wageningen: Uitgeverij Landwerk, p. 256-283 
  • Lenzholzer, S, Nijhuis, S & Cortesao, J (2018) 'RTD in landscape architecture: a first State of the Art', in: Storni, C, et al. (eds) Peer Reviewed Proceedings of DRS2018 Vol. 1.: Catalyst. (381-393). London: Design Research Society.