Alexander Robinson, FAAR

Assistant Professor

BA Studio Arts & Computer Science, Swarthmore College; MLA, Harvard GSD

Landscape architecture design, landscape infrastructure, landscape performance, design research, digital and physical media for landscape architecture modeling, research and design

Alexander Robinson is an Assistant 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 JournalJournal of Landscape ArchitecturePlaces JournalLos Angeles TimesLandscape Architecture MagazineKCET ArtboundThe 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 recently reviewed in the science journal, Nature. 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. 

Related Links: Landscape Morphologies Lab,

Currently Teaching
  • 535
    Landscape Construction Performance Approaches
    Landscape Construction Performance Approaches
    Develop 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.
  • 540
    Topics in Media for Landscape Architecture
    Topics in Media for Landscape Architecture
    Learn 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.
  • 541aL
    Landscape Architecture Design
    Landscape Architecture Design
    The 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.
Related News
Faculty Publication Roundup
Several USC Architecture faculty are getting buzz for their latest publications. Here’s a brief roundup of recent books published by some of our ...
Professors Alex Robinson and Diane Ghirardo Awarded Graham Foundation Grants
The Graham Foundation announced today that faculty members Alex Robinson and Diane Ghirardo are two of their 2018 grantees. Robinson's grant was ...
Professors Vittoria Di Palma and Alexander Robinson Author Essay on History of LA River
USC Architecture Professors Vittoria Di Palma and Alexander Robinson recently published “Willful Waters” in Places Journal. The article, which ...
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