Visualising Mtatsminda Forest

How simple models of ecological diversity can drive culturally relevant reforestation efforts

This iconic forest in Ambrolauri is an example of a forest aesthetic that has come to hold cultural significance to the Republic of Georgia.

The desire to plant and protect urban forests is driven as much by cultural value as it is by ecological value. In the Matsminda project, we developed a digital workflow to incorporate ecological and aesthetic principles into our proposed planting plans.

While clumps of certain species emerge, intermixing is better understood through plant behavior than through principles of picturesque composition.

The process began with data collection and interpretation by geologists and wildlife biologists. These specialists collected traditional spatial data and provided a qualitative analysis of habitat and recent trends in environmental change. We then compared this data against our own field observations of plant communities on territories with similar environmental qualities.

We distilled this qualitative analysis into typical forest conditions and used the geospatial data to identify “plantable areas” where the forest is most likely to succeed. We then matched typical forest conditions to these plantable areas, which became the centers of the new forest under principles of applied nucleation.

Adding an exclusion radius to certain species allowed us to create an abstract model of species competition over different time frames. While the density of forest cover is held constant, the composition of the forest will change over time.

A rules-based approach to planting and simulation allows us to rapidly generate and evaluate planting plans through ecological and aesthetic parameters. The rules of the planting plan reflect the behaviors and preferences of plants and plant communities as well as the preexisting geological conditions on the territory. Rather than “painting” the ridge with clumps of species to achieve a picturesque image, we generated and manipulated the actual composition of the proposed patches to achieve ecological and aesthetic diversity.

Cedrus deodara is highlighted here in red. Once the desired species composition is achieved in plan, a second script individually rotates, scales, and vertically positions a model of Cedrus deodara.

Schematic visualization allows for the introduction of textures and visual information that bridges the scales of cartographic and architectural rendering.

This combination of workflows allows us to evaluate the outcomes of the rules-driven planting plan from an aesthetic perspective. Once a desired “mosaic” is achieved across the ridge, we reverse-engineer the simulation to produce a planting plan that can be easily executed by planting teams in the field. Thus, the “code” of the forest is imbued with an ecological, aesthetic, and logistical intelligence that can be adapted and amplified through future interventions.