Academic focus: Art + design, ecology + technology, materials + innovation
Landscape architects and designers actively participate in the expansive reorganization of Earth’s matter, energy and form. While the circumstances of these spatial activities and designed interventions tend to manifest as isolated artifacts and built environments, their material existence is generated from an entanglement of complex and interconnected ecologies — from the microscopic to the planetary.
My research investigates these ecologies and their concomitant technologies and material histories, in order to better understand cultural landscapes and value metrics that achieve sustainable design practices.
What are your current outreach/extension projects?
I currently work with a non-profit organization, General Architecture Collaborative. Founded in 2008, by a collective of fellow educators and practitioners with expertise in architecture, landscape architecture, industrial design and the visual arts, we partner with individuals, communities and other organizations on design projects that contribute to sustainable, innovative and socially equitable spaces.
With a focus on community engagement, training, education and design research, our projects directly serve underrepresented, vulnerable and developing populations who might benefit most from these projects. Our past work has had a broad range of scales, program and complexity, and our projects are located around the world, including Albania, Bangladesh, Burundi, Haiti, Japan, Nepal, Rwanda, Uganda and the United States.
What brought you to Cornell CALS?
Cornell is an epicenter of research on agricultural sciences; and I am hoping to better understand the scales and attributes that exists in edible ecologies, foodscapes and other productive landscapes. In time, I hope to find opportunities to engage, to collaborate and to share stories about food and material ecologies with faculty, staff and students, whether in the classroom, the neighborhood coffeeshop and/or around the kitchen table.
What do you think is important for people to understand about your field?
First impressions of landscape architecture tend to focus on residential design (e.g. front lawns, backyards, outdoor patios) and golf courses. Landscape architects have a profound and transformative impact on public spaces for multiple species (not just humans), from the biological scale to the global scale.
We transform neighborhoods, cities, watersheds and bioregions, with a vision to better the health and well-being of our shared planet and all of its inhabitants. These endeavors — whether ingrained in teaching, research or practice — respond to issues of climate change, ecological resiliency, energy efficiency, carbon footprint, food security, social inequity, population migration, mass urbanization and so on.
Landscape architecture is a field that produces designed expressions and spatial experiences, a multiplicity of hybrid formulations that include everything from soil composition and planted form, to material assemblies and urban strategies. In all of these productions, there is an output of imagination and creativity that is grounded in material reality and science.
If you had unlimited grant funding, what major problem in your field would you want to solve?
The fields of architecture and design still have a lot of work to do to become inclusive, diverse and equitable. If I had unlimited grant funding, it would support minorities including Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and other underrepresented individuals in the profession through mentorships, summer programs, workshops, design-build projects and travel grants. I believe each of these opportunities can offer unique life and work experiences, while simultaneously acknowledging overlooked design ideas and unheard voices that our field needs now more than ever.
Learn more about Zaneta's work on her website, Alterior Office.
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