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
    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.
  • 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.

  • 580
    Field Studies
    Field 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.

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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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