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SCI-Arc Launches New Postgraduate Program, Synthetic Landscapes

SCI-Arc is thrilled to announce a new Master of Science program, entitled Synthetic Landscapes, which will address emerging topics in landscape architecture. The Master of Science in Synthetic Landscapes is a one-year, three-semester program examining how artificial and natural systems can come together to form new synthetic relationships during a difficult era of climate change. The program is now the fifth postgraduate program at SCI-Arc EDGE, Center for Advanced Studies in Architecture and is now accepting applications for fall 2020. “Climate change is an existential drama that is now unfolding at a planetary scale,” says SCI-Arc Postgraduate Programs Chair David Ruy. “It may very well be the single greatest challenge of our time, and for the design of future landscapes, the importance of this event cannot be understated. Landscape design, the often overlooked counterpart to building design, is increasingly becoming a primary arena for the development of ecological awareness and innovation.”

Joining the program as visiting faculty is one of the most important voices in ecological thought today, Timothy Morton. Currently the Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English at Rice University, Morton is the author of more than twenty-two books and has been translated into ten languages. “Timothy Morton is a well-known collaborator of notable figures such as Björk, Laurie Anderson, Olafur Eliasson, Pharrell Williams, and Jeff Bridges. There’s no one quite like him right now that so magically builds bridges between ecological theory and contemporary culture,” says Ruy. “Besides authoring what have already become seminal books, Timothy has also had a profound influence on cinema, music, fashion, and art. The opportunity to work closely with such an important thinker within the context of an exciting new landscape architecture program is truly unique.”

robot arm picking grapes on vine

In addition to a robust theoretical framework, the curriculum will incorporate the development of skills and technical knowledge integral to a landscape architecture practice including botany, horticulture, and how to use information systems to design the landscape. “However,” Ruy adds, “in contrast to traditional landscape design programs that emphasize the stewardship of nature and traditional western cultural values of picturesque or sublime images of nature, this program will challenge the status quo. Instead of being trapped in an environmental melancholy, we would like to see if our design imagination can project an abundant future with new forms of beauty.”

Of the new program, SCI-Arc Director Hernán Díaz Alonso says, “There shouldn’t be a distinction in landscape between the metropolitan and the natural. With Synthetic Landscapes, we're trying to figure out if there is a SCI-Arc way to conceptualize landscape architecture as a synthetic problem and tackle the largest scales of architectural thinking. I want to see if we can think of new forms of nature as a way to both produce and unsettle our built environments. We have to move beyond the historical traditions of landscape design,” explains Díaz Alonso. “Landscapes are cultural objects as much as anything else we would design.”

The program requires a degree at the bachelor level to apply. Preference will be given to applicants with a background in architecture or landscape architecture, but well-qualified applicants with a background in affiliated fields such as fine arts, ecological studies, urbanism, and public policy will also be considered for acceptance.

Click to learn more about the Synthetic Landscapes program, as well as how to enroll.

construction tower in desert landscape