Alison B. Hirsch, Ph.D., FAAR

Director, Landscape Architecture + Urbanism; Associate Professor

BA, Art & Art History, Wesleyan University MS (Historic Preservation), University of Pennsylvania MLA, University of Pennsylvania Ph.D., Architecture, University of Pennsylvania

Research areas: cultural landscapes; spatial politics of landscape architecture; contested urban landscapes; activist design methods; practices of representation; landscape's intersections with performance, choreography and corporeality


Alison B. Hirsch is a landscape theorist and designer, as well as historian. Both her design and written work focus on how the interpretation of sociocultural practices and marginalized histories and memories can contribute to the design of meaningful urban places. This research expands into: design in areas of sociospatial conflict and developing design methods and visualization practices that take cues from ethnography, choreography and public space studies.


Her book, titled City Choreographer: Lawrence Halprin in Urban Renewal America, was released by University of Minnesota Press ( and received grant support from the Foundation for Landscape Studies (David R. Coffin Publication Grant) and the Graham Foundation. The book provides an analysis of the creative process landscape architect Lawrence Halprin developed with his wife, dancer and choreographer Anna Halprin, and how aspects of this process have the potential to enrich contemporary approaches to structuring the city. It has additionally provided a foundation for Alison's ongoing research on participatory methods that contribute productively to the creative design process.


Alison is co-founder of foreground design agency, a transdisciplinary practice operating between the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, urbanism, and the visual arts ( Recipient of numerous recognitions, including prize-winners of the Pruitt Igoe Now competition, foreground provides Alison a platform to test her research in applied action. Prior to initiating her own practice, Alison worked in the design offices of W-Architecture and Landscape Architecture and James Corner Field Operations in New York City.


Alison co-edited a book of essays by James Corner, titled The Landscape Imagination (Princeton Architectural Press, 2014) and has published in numerous journals including Landscape Journal, the Journal of Architectural Education (JAE), and Studies in the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes. With her partner at foreground, she has authored essays about the firm’s design research in Journal of Architectural Education, International Journal of Interior Architecture and Spatial Design, and forthcoming in Future Anterior and Geography Research Forum (December 2018).


Prior to joining the faculty at USC, Alison taught landscape architecture theory and design at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD), University of Virginia and University of Toronto. Alison was a 2017-2018 Prince Charitable Trusts/Rolland Rome Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Rome. She is currently working on a book titled The Performative Landscape.

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Currently Teaching
  • 642
    Landscape Architecture Design
    Landscape Architecture Design
    Prerequisite(s): ARCH 542abL Fully integrated landscape place design; reclamation sites at significant urban or natural locations.
  • 698aL
    M.L.Arch. Thesis
    M.L.Arch. Thesis
    This seminar provides a conceptual foundation for the MLA research studio this fall and MLA thesis in the spring. The first half of the semester will be devoted to seminal readings on the subject of infrastructure, networks, systems thinking, and technology. In the second half of the semester, students will identify readings relevant to their chosen concentrations as they begin to develop their thesis bibliography. The course will be structured as a traditional seminar with all students participating and contributing. Directed research option for the M.L.Arch. degree. Credit on acceptance of research project. Graded IP/CR/NC.
Related News
Alison Hirsch Name 2017-2018 Rome Prize Winner
Professor Alison Hirsch and Aroussiak Gabrielian are the recipients of the Prince Charitable Trusts/Rolland Rome Prize, an 11-month fellowship that ...
Architects’ dilemma on memorials: Forget and heal, or confront and grieve
As the anniversary of 9/11 nears, America turns again to remember those lost to tragedy — and to consider the best ways to honor them. Recent ...
Architecture author landscapes a legend
Lawrence Halprin is having a moment. The late landscape architect, known as much for his idiosyncratic creative process as the public spaces he ...
Assistant Professor Alison B. Hirsch Published in JAE
The Journal of Architectural Education (JAE) recently published “Restoring Los Angeles’s Landscapes of Resistance,” an article authored by assistant ...
Faculty Members Awarded Grants by Graham Foundation
Professors Alison Hirsch and Ginger Nolan were awarded grants by the Graham Foundation for 2019. The foundation, which aims to “foster the ...
USC Architecture Appoints Alison Hirsch Director of Master of Landscape Architecture + Urbanism Program
LOS ANGELES, May 15, 2019 - University of Southern California School of Architecture today announced the appointment of associate professor Alison ...
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