Danika Cooper is Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at the University of California, Berkeley, where the core of her research centers on the geopolitics of scarcity, alternative water ontologies, and designs for resiliency in the global aridlands. Aridlands have largely been underexplored in landscape architecture—her work offers multiple ways of knowing, being, and engaging with desert landscapes to better inform current environmental and landscape architecture discourse and practice. This is especially important as populations in these regions increase and as the climate becomes drier and hotter. Through her scholarship, Cooper traces the ways that nineteenth-century, Euro-Western environmental theories and ideologies continue to influence cultural perceptions, policy frameworks, and management practices within US desert landscapes today.
Throughout US history, the desert has largely been imagined in contradictory terms—at times considered “empty,” “barren,” and “worthless” while at other moments brimming with economic potential. Her research shows how environmental discourse in the US is directly tied to a set of colonial beliefs and physical transformations aimed at deliberately exploiting the desert’s value for economic and political power. Her research highlights alternatives to prevailing nineteenth-century conceptions that the aridlands should and can be physically transformed through technocratic solutions. Contemporary climate realities promise that technocratic solutions, especially the implementation of hydraulic infrastructure that brings water from wetter places to the aridlands, are responsible for both exacerbating extreme climates and contributing to aridification (the long-term process by which environments become drier and hotter). Her work underscores the need for embracing aridity and designing with dry ecology, rather than attempting to forcefully change or thwart it.
Cooper's research and creative output has been published and exhibited across the world, and she has practiced architecture and landscape architecture both in the United States and in India. Prior to joining Berkeley, she was the 2015-2016 Designer-in-Residence teaching fellow at the University of Illinois, Department of Landscape Architecture.
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LA 287 Representation as Research
LA 254 Towards a Resilient Arid Future
LA 252B MLA / MLA-EP Thesis Prep
LA 234 Introduction to Drawing for Landscape Architects
LA 202 Drawing the Desert
LA 189 Contemporary Approaches to Visualization in Landscape Architecture
"Drawing Deserts, Making Worlds" Deserts are Not Empty (2022)
"Interrupting Infrastructure: Dust and the Desert" Infrastructural Love: Caring for our Architectural Support Systems (2022)
"The Red Deal: Decolonizing Climate Action" with Manuel Schvartzberg-Cárrio Architectural Design (AD) (2022)
"The Canal, the Pool: Infrastructures of Abundance and the Making of the Modern Desert" Landscape Research (2021)
"Legacies of Violence: Citizenship and Sovereignty on Contested Lands" Landscape Citizenships (2021)
"Waving the Magic Wand: An Argument for Reorganizing the Aridlands around Watersheds" The Plan Journal (2020)
"Waters Resist: Modernity, Aridity, and the Fight over Orme Dam" Journal of Architectural Education (2020)
"Invisible Desert" e-flux Architecture Journal (2019)
"Tides in the Body" Fresh Water: Design Research for Inland Water Territories (2019)
"How to Draw a Dust Storm" Journal of Landscape Architecture (2019)