Lela Robinson

About Lela:

Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio

Degree Program: Master of Landscape Architecture '22

Previous Degree: Bachelor of Urban and Regional Studies, Cornell University

Lela's Website


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

I was curious about many things, but in particular urban processes as they apply to landscape.



How would you characterize your design ethos? How has that been adapted since arriving at Cornell?

An interest in responding to site conditions, and finding moments on-site to respond to.

I usually start with photographic site work, as a method with which to study landscape. I try to pay particular attention to movement, moments of complexity which may consider questions at larger scales.

Hand drawing is where I really feel like I am thinking and able to think about many things in one moment. Drawing by hand is really a mindset like no other.

The mapping process, and use of QGIS open source software, as a tool that considers multi-scalar dimensions and helps us to consider and draw (speculate) on the operational landscape. This is also a useful practical tool to load NLCD maps (using plugins) and then calculate carbon sequestration metrics by land-use type.

Models without numbers and the practice of working with clay, site material, and circulation together as a loose, quick and informative practice allow for the study of physical manipulation of slopes and landforms. This provides a sense for scale, and movement through space (both human, water and ground).

Learning to model with numbers, and the implementation of Rhino and Grasshopper, provides a powerful complimentary tool which I hope to bring more into the process. I just figured out how to put a DEM file into a new plugin called Docofossor which was very exciting.

I think it is interesting to consider the connection between the technical skill set specific to landscape architecture which we are taught very thoroughly at Cornell, and analytical studies and drawings of history and theory.


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

A number of recognized artists, scholars, writers etc. have come to Ithaca to study and engage both its unique geological characteristics and complex history. Many accounts refer to Ithaca as “a beautiful landscape, one that is picturesque, as it combines the natural features with those of the industrial machine. There is a lot of tension and history to study here, one which is often dark and sad. I think there are also many other landscape typologies which we shouldn’t forget in Ithaca. A drive from 42.456842, -76.438351 to 42.471873, -76.430625, a walk to 42.468146, -76.431878, and a view towards 42.471161, -76.435659, is one such path through some of these.


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

The Ithaca Generator, (community driven maker space)

Learning Basic EMT level skills (Cortland, NY)

Working and Volunteering at the Ithaca Children’s Garden


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

In addition to gaining experience in the field of landscape architecture and working towards accreditation, I am finding more and more the engagement with the learning process a meaningful one. I hope to study more intentionally the theories and methods behind teaching, especially the ones which inform the discipline of drawing.

In particular, I would like to study and further research how we might engage methods of study for landscape that reveal urban processes, and how as well how to connect them more concretely to the study and practice of landscape architecture.

I am considering taking time after I graduate to teach in a public school. From my memories in high school, I think there might be many students interested in projects which encourage curiosity, critical thought, drawing, and experiential dimensions of landscape. My favorite moments this semester have been TAing for the freshman studio, and as well watching all of the students there do really good work.

In a similar way, I would like to spend more time learning from others and reading fiction.  I have for a long time had an interest in improving a very broken French, or learning ASL. At any time on the side, getting back behind the scenes of the theatrical stage, or back to the darkroom to develop film would be nice.