Landscape Justice Initiative addresses pressing environmental challenges in Los Angeles and beyond

Aerial shot of a highway with farmland on either side.

The Master of Landscape Architecture + Urbanism (MLA) program at USC Architecture uses the complex regional geography of Southern California as its primary laboratory to generate and test responses to the planet’s most pressing environmental challenges, including resounding impacts of climate change, rapid urbanization, social and environmental injustice, and the interface of nature and technology. This program fully embraces and echoes the goals of USC’s Assignment: Earth, the university’s sustainability framework for creating a healthy, just and thriving campus and world.

One of the four main initiatives under the MLA program, the Landscape Justice Initiative (LJI), led by Associate Professor Dr. Alison Hirsch, is a platform for graduate students to position and implement work in areas of environmental, spatial and climate justice particularly in communities that design does not typically reach. It uses equity- and ethics-based frameworks for approaching environmental and urban design in Los Angeles as well as regionally in Southern and Central California.  

“We are fortunate to inhabit one of the most culturally and environmentally diverse geographies in the world – a biodiversity hotspot within an hour’s drive from the Pacific Ocean, the San Gabriel Mountains and the western edge of the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts,” said Alison Hirsch. “Southern California offers a wide range of landscape challenges to which we apply design exploration, strategic thinking, technical resolution and creative expression. Those challenges include increasing water scarcity impacting urban and agricultural territories, warming temperatures, rising sea levels, reduced biodiversity, and wildfire-flood-debris flow cycles.”

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