MLA Program at the Rhode Island School of Design

MLA Program at the Rhode Island School of Design

(Experiential Mapping, student drawing from Design Principles Studio at RISD)

As a former student (MLA II) and now adjunct faculty I wanted to share our new and in progress department website aimed to create a window into the life of the Masters Landscape Architecture program at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).

I came to RISD as an MLA II because of the unique opportunity it allowed me to explore other art and design disciplines through the lens of a Landscape Architect. I was able to take a Sound Studio in the Digital Media department that informed ideas about the spatial significance of sound in the landscape, a hybrid printmaking class allowed me to explore different means of representation in my landscape courses, and witnessed friends take courses in ceramics, textiles, and many others, transforming what they were making to spark new ideas into their landscape projects.

(Modeling shadow, student drawing and model)

This is the beauty of the landscape program at RISD, that landscape is not a concrete definition, but a strong foundation that is a flexible idea encouraging you to explore and define through your own unique pursuits.

I currently co-teach the Design Principles Studio, the first studio for all first year grad students. In short, the studio focuses on the process of critical making and exploring the dynamic, spatial, and environmental elements specific to the medium of landscape architecture. As a general framework for the studio, students complete a series of experiments that will help develop an expansive set of creative methods for investigating design issues. During the second phase of the studio, we use use these tools to analyze issues of site, qualities of landscape space, and finally, to deploy these methods to create and convey a design intention.

(Modeling shadow, Design Principles student model)

This studio is quite rigorous, and students are asked to make more physical models and drawings than perhaps they’ve ever done before. But the result is a substantial growth in design facility. Students coming out of Design Principles are able to apply what they’ve learned to a wide range of design problems, in a much faster and creative way.

(Students in Design Principles Studio)

I invite you to explore our new department website at and our Design Principles Studio blog at

Also, should you have any questions about our program feel free to reach me at

Adam E. Anderson is a Critic in Landscape Architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design, a designer for Landworks Studio in Boston, and author/founder of Design Under Sky.

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