Alexander Robinson, FAAR

Associate Professor

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 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 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. 

Related Links: Landscape Morphologies

Currently Teaching
  • 535
    Landscape Construction Performance Approaches
    Landscape Construction Performance Approaches

    Contemporary challenges—social and environmental—demand landscape architecture projects perform greater, more diverse and precise services, in addition to the typical amenities of a park. Simultaneously, a shortage of un-utilized space challenges the profession to provide even the most basic amenities within increasingly unorthodox sites. Landscape architecture has thus been forced to not only expand what performances it designs, but also innovate how and where. Today, it must seamlessly hybridize basic social services, such as recreation and safety, with complex environmental services, ranging from climate modification to waste management, all within unprecedented post-industrial or active infrastructural sites. This course seeks to prepare students for this complex challenge (and design opportunity) through a performance-oriented survey of innovative designed landscapes and specialized skill-building. Through biweekly lectures and discussion, guided field trips, and diagramming exercises, students will examine and critique the performance “systems” of innovative landscapes—internationally and locally. The goal is to construct a platform of perspective, technical knowledge, and field-cultivated experience from which to address the considerable challenge of designing, implementing, and maintaining high performance public landscapes. 

  • 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 and studio culture. Students conduct a variety of exercises to develop and coordinate a theory and practice of landscape architecture design, representation, and site engagement. Studio begins with introductory design exercises and site analysis and transitions into full-fledged site design. Expertise and skill are cultivated through drawing, site observations, and active discussions and include an immersive, multi-day, site visit to Catalina Island. The course seeks to cultivate a dynamic design dialogue—a dialectic—between our interventions, bodies, and the existing conditions. Along the way, students will learn and practice digital and analog drawing and modeling techniques in coordination with the required media class.

    View the Fall 2020 Virtual EXPO Gallery

  • 639
    Media for Landscape Architecture: Dynamic Systems
    Media for Landscape Architecture: Dynamic Systems

    This course exposes students to the computational capacities of parametric software (Grasshopper),

    computational flow dynamics (Aquaveo, Ecotect), procedural media (Processing) and geospatial analysis (GIS), to analyze and generate both existing and emergent systems at the landscape scale. Students will additionally work with compositing software (After Effects) to experiment with dynamic notational and diagrammatic

    techniques to describe and depicting these dynamic systems.

    Designed as a two-part course, students will work with data (collecting, scraping, sorting, etc) to model, parse and simulate complex urban systems and dynamic ecological processes using computational processes (where sequences of operations are used to relate process and form through feedback). Prioritizing feedbacks between

    analysis and projection, the course will expose students to parametric processes with which to both find existing complex urban patterns as well as to generate new urban forms, while additionally exposing students to the geophysical, ecological, and environmental exchanges within landscape systems through computational flow dynamics and procedural media - translating ecological processes into the language of code.

  • 698bL
    Advanced Design-Research: Studio
    Advanced Design-Research: Studio

    The final studio in the design sequence, Advanced Design-Research is intended to integrate students into a deep research process that culminates in proposals that have replicable potential and the potential for impact on environmental and urban policy. The ARCH 698a research seminar in the Fall provides the research basis for this studio course. Topics are set by the instructor but offer a wide range of options for students to pursue their passions and interests as developed during their previous coursework in Landscape Architecture.

    View the Spring 2020 Virtual Expo Gallery

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