Student Research

One of the ways we find things out about the world is by asking why? or how?

When we ask questions that don’t accept things at face value, that dig into causal webs, we look beyond surface features to the social and political frameworks that organize and activate environmental conditions. Research is about finding things out and making discoveries—and, through these—developing novel ways of thinking and acting.

Students in the Master of Landscape Architecture program engage in independent research, joint research projects with their peers, and faculty-led research projects. They are encouraged to see landscape architectural design as an investigation through the processes of making and doing.

This section of our website features student work created as part of independent study courses, internships, or summer special projects. Everything about this featured research was developed by the students—from the rationale that motivated the study to the research question to the design operations to the outcomes and conclusion.

Through this self-directed process, students build critical thinking skills, learn how to raise vital questions and formulate them clearly, and figure out the best way to explore their ideas through inquiry by design.

Research Projects

The Skylark Project
Nona Davitaia, 2018
Adviser: Rod Barnett, professor and chair of landscape architecture

Nona Davitaia developed a series of maps, plans, models and images that investigate the lifeworld of the Missouri Skylark, an endangered prairie bird species. Her maps and plans intersect skylark habitat with hiking trails through large scale agricultural crop-fields. Davitaia worked with professor Rod Barnett to develop “skylark gardens,” where people can gather to observe these shy birds returning to newly-developed habitat to forage and nest. Through a combination of material, spatial, and chromatic effects, her models explore the fragile interface between birds and humans. The models, softly lit, and turning slowly on their axis, are suspended behind perforated screens through we look to discover the small, delicate world of this most celebrated of birds. Full research summary>>

After The Flood
Undergraduate architecture students minoring in landscape architecture, 2018
Adviser: Jacqueline Margetts, senior lecturer in landscape architecture

Undergraduate architecture students enrolled in the Sam Fox School's minor in landscape architecture developed a series of design solutions for the Wells/Goodfellow community in North St Louis. Located within the Harlem watershed, this low-lying neighborhood experiences persistent flooding. In an effort to alleviate the flooding, the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) has removed a significant number of houses through a two-mile stretch of the watershed, and installed three large detention basins that cap surface water run-off and release it slowly into the sewer system. Students conducted design research to find innovative methods for turning the newly created vacant lots into multifunctional performative terrains. Each student developed their own design interventions exploring, across a number of sites, diverse strategies for engaging the community with the the novel open spaces the demolition program produced. Design research focused on ways to divert surface water run-off from the sewer system, increasing biodiversity, providing educational, employment, and community-based economic opportunities.

transposing a tree: a phenomenological account
Alisa Blatter, spring 2017 independent study
Adviser: Rod Barnett, professor and chair of landscape architecture

The goal of this project is to investigate the territory of the tree as a phenomenological landscape. Blatter used an angle grinder to make a hollow in the living material of a pin oak in the Washington University campus allée, which would be felled soon after. The operation is grounded in experimental veins of cultural geography and archaeology that use performative landscape practices, specifically those involving movement and feel, to foreground the body in the revelation of the human and nonhuman world. Full research summary>>