Sonia Sobrino Ralston is a designer and researcher.

Sonia Sobrino Ralston is a designer and researcher.

Setting the Course: Table
Setting the Course: Future Core Studios in Landscape Architecture symposium
Harvard Graduate School of Design (2023)
Lead designer with Rosalea Monacella of the interaction segment of the table, broader collaboration with STOSS Landscape Urbanism (Chelsea Kilburn, Chris Reed), Lucas Dobbin, Craig Douglas, Elisa Cristiana Cattaneo, Crane Sarris, Nina-Marie Lister, Boston Parks Department

A climate change consciousness, including its inherent crisis of inequities, has slowly infiltrated landscape architecture academic programs. Consequently, this ‘consciousness’ has catalyzed a shift in the teaching and learning agendas beyond pondering only the potential impact of the scientific facts of sea level rise, and extreme weather events. This general awareness has helped catalyze a redesign of design studio pedagogies to purposefully take responsibility for educating students on alternative approaches to future landscapes. These advances are valuable yet remain limited. The imperative now is to set in motion a grounded transformation.  This transformation must involve a profound reconfiguration of, and innovation in, discrete knowledge systems within the design studio curriculum that must include a rigorous reconsideration of projects and their delivery, encompassing approaches, techniques, and fields of knowledge. This may very well also include discussions around a need to transform the design studio environment itself, and the institutions that house them.

Landscape Architecture and the expanded spatial disciplines are influenced and shaped by the insatiable consumption effects of market economies, environmental violence, and colonialist practices. As a consequence of its intersection with these significant societal issues that are key contributors to the climate crisis, the way Landscape Architecture is taught, particularly in the design studio setting, must itself adapt so that it might become a discipline centered on the future of design and world-building. To meet and make a just and equitable future, a reckoning and re-imagining of the landscape architecture design studio is needed.

The symposium brought together educators and students of landscape architecture and its related disciplines to collectively explore the many forms of knowledge production critical to landscape architecture’s pedagogy and practice. The forms we seek will challenge patriarchal modes of learning, clearing a path to actively address historical injustices, and endeavor to prevent any future harm to humans, more-than-humans, and the planet. The aspiration was to share and explore new, emerging, and alternative modes of learning and teaching that reckon with the past, and wrestle with the unique complexities of the climate crisis so that the discipline’s inherent capacity to impact and shape the future is defined and corroborated.

Interaction Segment

Designed in collaboration with Rosalea Monacella, this segment aimed to explore how studio environments foster interaction not just interpersonally, but with tools, techniques, and theories. Constructed out of cardboard sheets, the interaction section aimed to entangle plants, archival material, and critical pedagogical texts with tools like light tables, material samples, models, and cutting mats. Together, the objects suggest an approach to pedagogy that encourages the intermixing of techniques and theory as an integral part of design learning.


Photos by Garrett Craig-Lucas.

Last updated: May 2024

The background changes according to the diurnal cycles of Boston, MA.