Alexander Robinson, FAAR
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BA Studio Arts & Computer Science, Swarthmore College; MLA, Harvard GSD
Landscape architecture, landscape infrastructure, green infrastructure, landscape performance, design research, landscape modeling, urban rivers, terminal lakes, materials & technologies, arid climates, American West
Alexander Robinson is an Associate Professor in the USC Landscape Architecture & Urbanism program, an Affiliate of both the Spatial Sciences Institute and Wrigley Institute of Environmental Studies, and principal of the Office of Outdoor Research/LMLab in Los Angeles, California. A landscape architect, researcher, and scholar he is a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome and a lifelong explorer of California. His research advances the design craft, resilience, and societal value of large-scale, multifunctional infrastructures through a synthesis of historical analysis, advanced design tools, and public engagement. Subjects include Owens Lake, Los Angeles River, Salton Sea, and Tevere (Tiber) River, as well as other infrastructure/open-space hybrids. Prior to his academic appointment, Alexander worked at SWA Group, MLA-Studio, and Stoss and contributed to major regional infrastructure master plans, including the award-winning 2005 Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan that has guided the city for the last decade. His own practice, the Office of Outdoor Research won a 2018 ASLA (Southern California Chapter) Merit Award for the RebArena.
His writing and design research conducted at USC have been published, reviewed, and featured in Nature, Landscape Journal, Journal of Landscape Architecture, Places Journal, Los Angeles Times, Landscape Architecture Magazine, KCET Artbound, The Architect’s Newspaper, among others. His recent article on the Los Angeles River, “Willful Waters,” co-authored with Vittoria di Palma, was published in Places Journal and featured in Longreads. He has presented his work at a wide range of venues, including Dumbarton Oaks, CELA, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Virginia, PennState, Ohio State University, Cal Poly SLO, and many others. He has exhibited his design research internationally, including at L.A.C.E. (Los Angeles), American Academy in Rome, University of Michigan, University of Virginia, Pratt University (upcoming), and Los Angeles City Hall. The work has been generously supported by the Graham Foundation, Foundation for Landscape Studies, Landscape Architecture Foundation, the City of Los Angeles, Lauren Bon and the Metabolic Studio, and others.
His most recent book, The Spoils of Dust: Reinventing the Lake that Made Los Angeles (AR+D, 2018) is a history, analysis, and design proposal for City of Los Angeles’ attempt to redeem Owens Lake—a lake desiccated by the Los Angeles Aqueduct—without refilling it. It was reviewed in the science journal, Nature and in Los Angeles Review of Books. His previous book, Living Systems: Innovative Materials and Technologies for Landscape Architecture (Birkhäuser, 2007) is a best-selling treatise on landscapes as material performance systems. His upcoming book focuses on active urban infrastructure as open space.
- 535Landscape Construction Performance ApproachesLandscape Construction Performance ApproachesDevelop tools and knowledge to expand the performative boundaries of landscape architecture beyond common typologies. Topics range from ecological infrastructure to design with weather patterns. A systematic approach to case studies, landscape technologies, and field trips seeds the knowledge base and representational methods necessary to design and build these complex landscape performances.
- 540Topics in Media for Landscape ArchitectureTopics in Media for Landscape ArchitectureLearn how landscape architecture design can be augmented by programming custom computational tools and processes. Explore how algorithmic tools, rapidly constructed in the Grasshopper / Rhino visual programming language, enable the development of designs with feedback from complex site systems and processes. Students will learn how to integrate custom landscape design, analysis, and representation tools into iterative processes that help coordinate design function and form. No prior knowledge of Grasshopper is required, though students should have familiarity with Rhino modeling and rendering. Students may also engage in some rapid landscape prototyping with the laser cutter, CNC mill, and 3D printers.
- 541aLLandscape Architecture DesignLandscape Architecture DesignThe first of the MLA 3’s core design studios, this course introduces the fundamental concepts, principles and elements of landscape architectural design. Students conduct a variety of exercises that develop and coordinate a theory and practice of landscape architecture design, representation, and site engagement. Studio begins with basic formal design exercises that transition into local site engagements. Expertise and skill are cultivated through a series of drawing techniques and prescribed exercises that develop a fundamental idea of site dialogue – a dialectic – between our interventions, bodies, and the existing condition. Students will learn and practice digital and analog drawing and modeling techniques.
- 580Field StudiesField Studies
One of the most important aspects of field research is the opportunity to gain insight into the relationships between design language, building proposition and construction process of specific periods/architects/buildings/landscapes. It is an occasion to discover not only the tenets upon which an designer bases his work, but also how these tenets resolve complex relationships between a project, its site and the cultural/theoretical context in which it was constructed. Through thoughtful case study analysis students will explore how these external forces influence/direct the form and shape of the designed response.
This Field Studies course will concentrate on projects and practices [from the analysis of buildings to the focused engagement with the methods of practice], landscapes and ecologies [both natural and manmade], and urban spaces [including parks, plazas, and urban (re)development projects]. The field study of these spaces and methods also provides an opportunity to understand the complex relationship of the designer with place. These place-based investigations will engage field studies to employ analytical methods, representational techniques, and speculative inquiry into the fundamental spatial and infra-structural elements of place. This investigation allows one to develop awareness as well as appreciate the complex relationship between a place, its inhabitants and the spaces that facilitate a multitude of events and activities.