ASLA Launches First Landscape Architecture VR Video

Words: Bronzella Cleveland

Video Brings to Life Toronto’s Underpass Park

Underpass Park won the ASLA 2016 Professional Award of Excellence. It’s the organization’s hope that other cities will follow suit and take a new look at their underpasses, too.
Underpass Park won the ASLA 2016 Professional Award of Excellence. It’s the organization’s hope that other cities will follow suit and take a new look at their underpasses, too.

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has released its first virtual reality (VR) viewing experience to the public, featuring exclusive footage of Toronto’s Underpass Park, which won the ASLA 2016 Professional Award of Excellence.

The ASLA VR video takes viewers on an exciting journey through this unique park found under a highway underpass, guided by landscape architect Greg Smallenberg, FASLA, principal at PFS Studio.

Free viewing options

Option 1: Watch a 360 video via the YouTube mobile app at (please note that this video will not work on your mobile browser). Be sure to turn around while watching so you can see all angles of the park!

Alternatively, from your desktop computer, go to using your Chrome browser. Use the sphere icon to navigate through the park!

Option 2: Watch a 3-D 360 video on Samsung Gear VR. If you own a Samsung Gear VR headset and compatible Samsung phone, go to Samsung Gear via the Oculus App and search for “Underpass Park” or “ASLA” to find our video.

Why Underpass Park?

ASLA selected Underpass Park for the video because it won the ASLA 2016 Professional Award of Excellence. Less than one percent of all award submissions receive this honor. The award highlights Underpass Park because it’s a prominent example of reusing abandoned, derelict space. This award says that even underpasses can become great parks, ASLA reports. It’s the organization’s hope that other cities will follow suit and take a new look at their underpasses, too.

Why virtual reality?

With video, you can pack in even more information about a work of landscape architecture, much more than you can in simply a photo or text. With video, you can get a sense of the sight, sound, and “feel” of a place. You can see people interacting with the design, bringing it to life. Virtual reality takes video to the next level: as you move your phone or VR headset, you control your experience in the landscape. It more closely mimics the experience of exploring a place in person. In part, it recreates that sense of discovery one gets in real life.

Why did ASLA make this VR film?

The organization says it always is looking for more effective ways to promote the value of landscape architecture to society. Virtual reality has proven to be a powerful tool for explaining how the places people love—like Underpass Park—are designed experiences. Virtual reality allows us to educate the public about landscape design in a more compelling way, ASLA says.

The ASLA has multiple goals with the video: It hopes to use the video to promote the potential of virtual reality among the landscape architecture community, which totals approximately 25,000 design professionals in the United States and Canada. It also hopes to use the video to explain the incredible value of landscape architecture to the public, and the ability of landscape architects to turn an unloved place like an underpass into a beloved community park.

The ASLA also wants community groups or local advocates to make use of the video for their own goals. For example, when the organization was filming the video, they met a family visiting from Buffalo, N.Y. The mother of the child who was skateboarding there said it was a “no brainer to put a skatepark under an underpass.” She immediately got that the space was accessible when it’s raining or snowing because it’s covered. Ideally, this video will become a tool for her to promote the idea of an Underpass Park in Buffalo, ASLA says.

Why should landscape architects use VR?

Virtual reality is a powerful tool for landscape architects, architects, planners and developers—really anyone involved in designing our built and natural environments. In the example of Underpass Park: many will never have the opportunity to visit the park in person, but with our video, they can get a good sense of what it is like to be there.
For landscape architecture firms, this is an excellent way to really show clients that a place they’ve designed works—that people enjoy hanging out there, that kids love playing there, that people are drawn to events there, ASLA says.

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