For landscape architects, one’s ethical orientation informs modes of practice, advising, for example, how one works, who one works for, and with whom one collaborates. The Studio’s contribution is to trace the influences further, linking ethics to core disciplinary design concerns, including form-making, material decisions, and plant selection.

We align ourselves with the cultural geographer Denis Cosgrove, who stated in the influential book Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape: “Landscape today is pre-eminently the domain either of scientific study and land planning, or of personal and private pleasure. It no longer carries the burden of social or moral significance attached to it during the time of its most active cultural evolution.” The Studio understands this as a call to action, that for the discipline to remain culturally relevant, it must enliven debate around the field’s social function and ethical orientation.

Thus, the Studio pursues design and research in tandem. Research teaches us how the world is, while design proposes alternatives for how the world could be. Furthermore, the Studio believes that all design decisions involve value judgments, that any acts of building in the world are political, and that we must continually raise questions of justice when we modify our physical environment.

Alert to the significant environmental, social, and economic challenges facing us, the Studio is committed to questioning our deeply held assumptions about the values held and transmitted through our landscapes. Drawn to sites of confrontation, including political, resource-based, and military, the Studio responds by complicating notions of the good and articulating a diversity of ethical positions relative to our obligations to nature and each other. Speculative design and critical writing reframe dogmatic beliefs, challenge preconceptions, and envision alternative futures.
Principal Investigator
Fionn Byrne
Associate Professor
Associate Professor Fionn Byrne directs the Studio. Fionn teaches in the Master of Landscape Architecture and Bachelor of Design programs. Before joining SALA in 2017, he taught at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture Landscape and Design, and the University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture. Born in Mapoteng, Lesotho, to parents of Irish and Scottish descent and raised in Ontario on the Saugeen Peninsula, Byrne acknowledges and is thankful to live and work on the land of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm First Nation.

CV | 2023, 09 |  Download