Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version

Spring 4-14-2021


Perez, Aus. Understanding Spaces of Abandonment Through Virtual Frameworks in Landscape Architecture. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. April 2021.


Copyright Aus Perez 2021.


In recent years, design professionals have implemented many contemporary landscape architecture projects across the United States. With a primary goal of returning nature to urban environments, contemporary landscape architects and other transdisciplinary partners work diligently to sculpt physical spaces that reflect the human-living experience. However, a leap into the world of video game design could allow landscape architects and urban planners to more freely create virtual social environments to address rising issues of abandonment in today’s urban and rural spaces. Video game mechanics and methodologies can be used extensively in the disciplines of design that value participatory processes, like landscape architecture and urban planning. To better understand how users engage with physical and virtual space, landscape architects, urban planners, and video game designers must consider transdisciplinary approaches to illuminate landscape and architectural abandonment issues. Designers must integrate virtual platforms of engagement into the physical realm — as well as the socio-digital spaces we spend much of our time in — to more deeply understand how digital world-building can affect conditions of social and spatial marginality in the ‘real world.’ Suppose the underutilized space that fills our communities has the potential to become an alternate version of a “public” through virtual means. How, then, might design professionals introduce new and exciting platforms for public space to exist virtually?

To better understand the complex history of virtual environment building in landscape architecture, a literature review of information pertaining to post-industrial landscapes, video game design, and opportunities for educational intervention was conducted. Additionally, to further stress the importance of transdisciplinary practice, an exploration of the methodologies and frameworks that support video game design was conducted. Upon exploring various methodological frameworks, a more thorough understanding of how virtual environments can be created in spaces of abandonment was developed. Finally, a comparative analysis between three popular video games — including The Witness, Block’hood, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons— was conducted to explore how virtual landscape space might relate to physical landscape space and how the two might work together.