Kelly Zhan

About Kelly:

Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

Degree Program: Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture '22

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

While attending school in New York, I was very privileged to be able to make use of many amazing public parks around the city. Central Park, in particular, inspired me to pursue a degree in landscape architecture. It was a commonplace for my friends and I to visit after school, so I was very excited when I started interning there. During my time working at the park, I observed and experienced all the behind-the-scenes systems that kept the park running for millions of people every year. When I was exposed to this complex, yet hidden system, I was inspired to discover how the park was designed to be perceived as a naturalistic ecosystem.

How would you characterize your design ethos or process?

I would characterize my design ethos as chaotic and messy. In my design work, I emphasize the analog process using pen, pencil, leaves, woods, or anything other materials that are rooted in the experiential quality of the landscape. For me, embracing these fluid modes of representation express the ever-evolving and dynamic characteristics of the landscape's environmental and social systems.


Are there any other particular courses at Cornell that leverage your interests?

Anne Weber's Rural Adaptation class exposed me to a different set of landscapes through a designer lens, and expanded my understanding of landscape architecture, which has mostly been focused on urban settings. In this class, I used design research methods to explore the agricultural industry and its place in landscape architecture. After conducting this research, I believe there should be more opportunities to explore this uninvestigated intersection between landscape design and industrial agriculture because this intersection has untapped potential to mitigate environmental issues caused by farm operations while enhancing local ecosystems and communities.


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

Growing up in Brooklyn, my experience of designed landscapes was shaped by small neighborhood parks, which were sometimes like extensions of the concrete sidewalk. Since starting my landscape architecture studies at Cornell, I have discovered my interests in a completely different set of landscapes. Even though I have limited experience with rural landscapes, I have been excited to learn more about agricultural landscapes, management practices, and their environmental effects. Especially being in the Finger Lakes Region, I became familiarized with the general environmental, cultural, and political trends of the agriculture industry in New York.


What would you tell your younger self from ten years ago? What would you tell your future self ten years ahead?

To my younger self, have fun! To my future self, have even more fun!