Sonia Sobrino Ralston (she/her) is a Master of Landscape Architecture student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Broadly, her interests lie in how landscape and architecture intersect with political geography, the history of technology, and social movements. Her current projects focus on understanding how regimes historically attempted to establish control over landscapes using scientific research campuses and information technology, and the alternative and dissenting systems that respond to them. She holds a Master of Architecture from Princeton University where she also received a certificate in Media and Modernity, and was awarded the Suzanne Kolarik Underwood Prize. Sonia is also a graduate of the University of Toronto’s Architectural and Urban Studies undergraduate program. Beyond this, she has worked as an assistant curator, research assistant, teaching assistant, architectural designer, exhibition designer, data visualizer, publication editor, and graphic designer at various institutions and organizations focused on spatial concerns.



Architecture + Landscape

Sonia Sobrino
Ralston

Selected Work

01. Design
Waste to Governance
    LOT ###

02. Editorial
Party Planner︎︎︎
Pidgin︎︎︎

03. Professional
Assistant Curator, 2022 Tallinn Architecture Biennale︎︎︎
    Design Collaborator,
    metaLAB at Harvard︎︎︎


Sonia Sobrino Ralston (she/her) is a Master of Landscape Architecture student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Broadly, her interests lie in how landscape and architecture intersect with political geography, the history of technology, and social movements. Her current projects focus on understanding how regimes historically attempted to establish control over landscapes using scientific research campuses and information technology, and the alternative and dissenting systems that respond to them. She holds a Master of Architecture from Princeton University where she also received a certificate in Media and Modernity, and was awarded the Suzanne Kolarik Underwood Prize. Sonia is also a graduate of the University of Toronto’s Architectural and Urban Studies undergraduate program. Beyond this, she has worked as an assistant curator, research assistant, teaching assistant, architectural designer, exhibition designer, data visualizer, publication editor, and graphic designer at various institutions and organizations focused on spatial concerns.


Architecture + Landscape

Sonia Sobrino Ralston

Selected Work

01. Design
Waste to Governance
LOT ###

02. Editorial
Party Planner︎︎︎
Pidgin︎︎︎

03. Professional
Assistant Curator, 2022 Tallinn Architecture Biennale︎︎︎
    Design Collaborator,
    metaLAB at Harvard︎︎︎




Waste to
Governance


Fall 2021
Harvard GSD Landscape Architecture Core III
Professor Robert Gerard Pietrusko







Making data infrastructure visible

As sea levels rise, toxicants are leached into soils, and environmental change increases, environmental data informs the spatial practice of retreat and design for climate. However, much of the environmental data we collect and use from organizations such as the EPA, while incredibly reliable, is difficult to access both intellectually and practically. This project imagines a new form of digital watershed governance that lays a grid for potential sensing stations across the territory to produce alternative forms of landscape sensing that support existing work on climate data. This grid of potential sites offers a suggestion for the collection of data as a political praxis to experience the granularity of climate change at the level of the neighbourhood and watershed, rather than layers of geospatial data housed in the depths of government agencies’ websites.
Sensing data collected at sites in the grid activate as environmental pollution and are constructed by local environmental groups in need of greater monitoring, setting off a chain of new sensing towers as a plume of pollution grows. Yet, these sensing towers do not abandon traditional sensing altogether—sites include all of the standard functions of EPA monitoring stations—but they also include large plantings aimed to bioindicate both contaminants and long-term environmental change. The data center, sited at the Wheelabrator landfill in Saugus, serves as a public data center that can be accessed as-needed at an otherwise dead landscape. The data center supports the data collected through sensing stations, as well as serves as a public utility to generate capital and infrastructural means to contain contaminants that may leach from the landfill itself as sea level rises.



A waste-to-energy ash monofill landfill located in Rumney Marsh, between Revere, Saugus, and Lynn in Massachusetts is the proposed location for the centre of a public monitoring network.


The surrounding context of the site is at severe risk of flooding, a problem could lead to the leaching of toxins into the protected salt marsh surrounding the landfill
The reporting agencies for water and air monitors is often distant from the monitor’s location,physically alienating data analysis from locals


Site 1: Public data centre

The public data centre serves as the centre of governance for the watershed’s stations. By using the data centre as a cap material, the site uses existing water pumping infrastructure that is part of the waste-to-energy systems to keep the inundating marsh afloat, but also to be treated and used as cooling water for the data centre. Despite having very different infrastructural and productive purposes, data centers and landfills have similar requirements which offers a fruitful reciprocity between these two programs.




Site plan of the landfill as it becomes inundated by sea level rise. The data centre is added in the corner of the landfill that is currently active. A former berm in the salt marsh is moved and reconstituted as additional flood barriers to protect the infrastructure of the data centre.



Similarities in needs between landfills and data centers
Using the data centre as cap material





Retaining walls contain and heighten the berms, and valleys use plantings to filter and indicate toxicity levels to water flowing back into pumps for water treatment




Site 2: Lynn Triangle Waterfront




The Lynn triangle as imagined site for three long-term monitoring stations



Strategies to alter monitoring stations to become civic beacons 




Planting plan for the waterfront, using plants found in the region in the 19th century, to contemporary plants, to plants found in Florida’s climate as a means to indicate climate change on a long timescale




The planting of the waterfront serves to replace aging bulkheads with a planted wetland to ease flood risk




Site 3: Lynn Triangle Inland




Monitoring stations reconfigured to appear as civic beacons   
Taxonomy of plants from three regions to serve as bioindicators



Sited adjacent to an elementary school, the urban park aims to indicate saltwater intrusion as flooding in Lynn worsens over time among other climatic changes



The sloping site uses the varying root depth of plants to work as indicators in an inland setting



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