Aishwarya Shankar

About Aishwarya:

Hometown: Pune, Maharashtra, India

Degree Program: Master of Landscape Architecture '23

Previous Degree: Bachelor of Architecture

What kind of questions or curiosities did you have when you decided to pursue a degree in landscape architecture?

My internship with Prabhakar Bhagwat in India was where my interest in landscape architecture first sparked. After graduating in 2016, I worked at Architecture Brio in Mumbai for nearly 3 years and ran an independent architectural practice after that for 2 years. In all those years of practicing architecture and interior design, the disconnect of the construction industry with landscape was a question that kept itching at the back of my mind. Although my work experience dealt with sustainable, traditional, and indigenous craftsmanship in the industry of building a ‘shelter’, I was always curious to learn more about ecology and landscape as a ‘material’, for a deeper understanding of the context of a site really is. Working solely with architectural building materials felt dry and almost incomplete without a concentrated understanding of the complexities in ecologies and their life cycles, especially when dealing with the question of what it means to be sustainable in a highly exploitative industry.

How would you characterize your design ethos or process?

I came into the MLA program with a practice-oriented approach. Within the course of a semester, academia has opened my mind to immersing myself into a long-standing curiosity of human-ecology relationships in historical and cultural landscapes, a facet of my larger interests that I never imagined to be able to integrate into my career and profession to this extent. The curriculum has allowed me to explore the breadth of landscape architecture’s arms, notably to weave into my current process questions of advocacy, stewardship, and environmental-social justice.

Being at Cornell, has to live in the Finger Lakes region informed your view on the field, or even broader, the environment?

I had prepared myself for certain impressions I had of the US before coming here, but I am now pleasantly surprised to admit that Cornell, Ithaca, and the Finger Lakes Region at large have managed to break many of those assumptions. Coming from a completely different climate type and cultural background, being surrounded by the beauty of such dramatic landscapes has definitely made the process of relocating in strange times a pleasant one, and moreover, relatable to what we’re here to study.


What kind of organizations or activities have you become involved in within Ithaca?

I am a part of the Terrace Garden Working Group at the Department of Landscape Architecture, where we are working towards upgrading and expanding the scope and reach of student-run participatory spaces. It is a part of CU-ASLA. In addition to this, I am a participant of local-university-level reading groups pertaining to my interest in politics and activism.


What kinds of professional and personal trajectories are you setting for yourself at the moment?

It is my aim to completely immerse myself into academia since I’ve got back to it after 5 years. I would like to begin aligning my concentrations towards exploring cultural landscapes – the relations of anthropology and archaeology with landscapes and ecologies, relating to a thesis topic that I have in mind situated in India. I am open to seeing where that takes me, whether it is a career in academics or practice, or both. I am hoping to someday bring the experience of this exposure along with all the tools, insight, and resources that Cornell has to offer back to India, where I see immense potential and urgent need for the varied roles of a landscape architect-researcher.