Monica Rourke

About Monica:

Hometown: Detroit, Michigan

Degree Program: Master of Landscape Architecture '22

Undergraduate Degree: Bachelor of Fine Arts

Monica's Website


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

With a background in fine art and a particular interest in process and materials, I was curious about how I could integrate these elements with nature, another of my long-time passions. Knowing I wanted a career in the creative realm that provided variation in experience and opportunities to travel and spend time outside, I felt drawn to landscape architecture as a potential career. I was curious about how I could establish a collaborative relationship with nature and all its wildness and flows. The result is an immensely engaging and dynamic experience, and I couldn’t be more excited to receive my master’s degree and pursue a future in this field.

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

My design process is rooted in principles that are sensitive to the human perspective and our experiences with and responses to landscape details and assemblages, particularly at intimate scales. This significance is expressed representationally through hand drawings and sketches which occupy a major role in my design process. Material studies and selections are also critical to my design development. Various courses at Cornell have prompted deeper material investigations and experimentation which has generated more specialized material knowledge which I can then integrate into my practice.

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

Living in the finger lakes region provided a new perspective on how dynamic topographies and water systems can shape communities. Living in Michigan for the majority of my life, I know how significant a role water plays in the identity of place. But Ithaca provides a new palette of landscape features, climatic conditions, and physical realities.

I chose Cornell because I wanted to study landscape architecture in an environment that constantly inspires and challenges me- and Ithaca provides the perfect atmosphere for those with an appreciation for these perspectives.


Reflecting on your interests, how do you hope to define your concentration in the program?

My concentration is a convergence of themes on human/spatial relationships, design principles, and material applications based upon independent research I previously conducted on aspects of cultural aesthetics, philosophies, and artistic traditions. These elements have significantly influenced my design process and generate interest for further exploration.


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

My favorite activity in Ithaca is exploring the gorges, waterfalls, and hiking trails with friends. At every turn, there is something new to experience and explore. Weekend hikes, walks in the botanical gardens and arboretum, evenings on Lake Cayuga, and trips to the local wineries make living in Ithaca so special!


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

To myself ten years ago, hearing for the first time what a landscape architect is and what they do... Follow that curiosity. Pursue the unknown, trust your instincts, and take opportunities as they come. And to myself ten years from now… Keep sharing your passions and nurture your ambition. Consider everything landscape architecture has to offer and pursue every evolution of yourself.