Alexander Robinson

Associate Professor of Architecture and Spatial Sciences
Alexander Robinson
Email Office WAH 319 Office Phone 747-234-8222


Alex Robinson is a landscape architect, researcher, and scholar. His work seeks to reinvent our most consequential anthropogenic landscapes through collective authorship, multidisciplinary tools, and community engagement. As an Associate Professor in the Landscape Architecture + Urbanism program, he researches how civic infrastructure can function as landscape, exploring methods to re-envision ecological function and community value.

Alex currently focuses on the Los Angeles River, which he has studied since working on the award-winning Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan. His aim is to build a user-friendly tool that invites the community to redesign the LA River, one of the country’s most ambitious and environmentally destructive flood control projects. Alex combines physical hydraulic modeling and other advanced technologies, including robotic fabrication and augmented reality, to make a design interface where technical design practices are made imaginative and accessible. Housed in the City of Los Angeles’s Hydraulic Research Laboratory along the LA River, the tool invites engineers, community activists, ecologists, earth scientists, environmental health scientists, and other community stakeholders alike to engage in an iterative and playful redesign. The project is in partnership with the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the City of Los Angeles, USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering, USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, and CalTech.

His most recent book, The Spoils of Dust: Reinventing the Lake that Made Los Angeles (AR+D) is a history, field analysis, and design investigation into Owens Lake. The book explores landscape architecture’s role in the City of Los Angeles’ two-billion-dollar attempt to redeem Owens Lake without refilling it. It was reviewed in Nature, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and JAE. The book’s accompanying design experiment, Greetings from Owens Lake, will soon be on exhibit at the Center of Land Use Interpretation’s Swansea location. His previous book, Living Systems: Innovative Materials and Technologies for Landscape Architecture (Birkhäuser) is a best-selling treatise on landscapes as high-performance and sustainable systems.

Alex is a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome. He received the Prince Charitable Trust Rome Prize in 2015. His design practice, the Office of Outdoor Research, won a Southern California Chapter ASLA Merit Award for the RebArena. His design research has been exhibited internationally, including at L.A.C.E., the Center for Land Use Interpretation, University of Michigan, University of Virginia, and Los Angeles City Hall. His work has been 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. He is also an affiliate of the USC Spatial Sciences Institute and the Wrigley Institute of Environmental Studies.

Alex is lifelong explorer of California and the American West, a passion he shares with his students. He leads an intensive summer field school on the topic: Arch 580: “Field School on the Frame.” The class travels throughout California, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico to visit the American West’s most beloved and problematic landscapes, including the Spiral Jetty, Bingham Copper Mine, and the Bonneville Salt Flats.