Andrea Johnson (class of 2015) is a student in the M.L.A. Program
Why did you choose SSA?
I was interested in how landscape architecture could merge social, cultural, and environmental forces in complex urban environments. With SSA at the heart of NYC and with the landscape program’s strong urban focus that shifts between site and greater system scales, it was an obvious choice. Now, in my final semester, I can say that I am extremely happy that I pursued my M.L.A. here. The professors have been engaging and down to earth, I’ve made great friends, and there have been many opportunities to grapple with current urban issues.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Michigan. Before coming to SSA, I worked in the non-profit community development sector in Puerto Rico and New York City for seven years. This experience, along with my design studies at SSA, has led me to believe that landscape architecture can and should take a prominent role in working towards socio-spatial equity.
What’s the favorite project you’ve worked on at SSA?
My favorite studio was the second in the sequence led by Professor Denise Hoffman-Brandt. Months after Superstorm Sandy, the “Waterproofing NY” studio investigated planning and design strategies that would allow NYC to become more resilient and adapt to climate change. I enjoyed the large-scale infrastructural analyses, and how we then zoomed in to investigate the physical and social vulnerabilities that were highlighted by the storm at Red Hook Houses, the largest public housing development in Brooklyn. I ended up designing an interactive lighting system resistant to flooding and powered by solar.
What other activities are you involved in?
I wanted to use my time as a graduate student to travel and I was fortunate to find internships in two very different and exciting cities I had never visited before. While at a landscape architecture office in Bogotá two summers ago, I collaborated on a waterfront design and a forest fire restoration project. Last summer I worked at an urban design office in Zurich, and developed an upgrading methodology for an informal settlement in Cape Town.
What is something unexpected that you have learned at SSA?
Invasive species are not always bad. Learning the Latin names of plants is not my strength (although I will always remember my favorite street tree – Robinia pseudoacacia). I can be very productive with very little sleep and the great coffee bar we have set up in studio. Finally, I’ve learned that you can never have enough X-Acto knives for model making.