• CDR Process
  • Themes
  • Explorations

Research at MRA seeks to advance the profession of landscape architecture, improve the contemporary human condition, and address challenges of the built environment.

Through research, MRA pushes itself to redefine the boundaries of professional practice and the parameters for successful work. This commitment defines our approach to design and asks that everyone in our office participate in the shared production of knowledge.

Research is carried out both in direct support of projects and as independent initiatives. The firm’s project- based research process (CDR) lays the groundwork for informed design and planning recommendations, as well as, targeted opportunities for innovation. Independent initiatives focus on strategic research and development objectives derived from the firm’s primary areas of research. Whenever possible we look to develop these design research opportunities through means that engage and serve our community.

Mahan Rykiel’s Collaborative Design Research | CDR process aims enrich project delivery and implementation by harnessing the creative and intellectual capital of collaboration to frame and solve complex design challenges. The process has three distinct phases that leads to design that considers the ecological, social, and economic aspects of a project across scales and in-time. Phase one DEFINES the overarching impulses and needs that inspire and guide project implementation. Phase two builds on this motivational context, adding DIMENSIONAL qualities to key variables such as climate, soils, hydrology, plant & animal communities, demographics, use patterns, program, site history, funding mechanisms, anticipated return-on-investment, and others. Phase three considers these variables in time, exploring mechanisms that may influence project development and/or the user experience such as maintenance, seasonality, logistics, etc. to DETERMINE appropriate long-term strategies and post occupancy evaluation methods. DESIGN integrates the information gathered in phases 1-3 in to a coherent and unified VISION that amplifies the authenticity and distinct character particular to the project.

The MRA research program is guided by the rigorous methodologies of landscape architecture’s scientific heritage and the creative processes and cultural influences of its architectural inheritance. The firm focuses on three primary research themes: COMMUNITY, COMMUNICATION, and CONSTRUCTION

COMMUNITY: Landscape Experience & Cultural Production

Landscape is imbued with deep civic and cultural associations. Our research in to the experiential effects and cultural dimensions of landscape enriches our sensitivity and allows us to design and build places that elicit rich personal and communal experiences.

COMMUNICATION: Interdisciplinary Design Collaboration

Landscape is a product of complex human and non-human interactions. Our research in to collaborative processes and interdisciplinary communication enables us to influence the political, ecological, economic and social aspects of landscape, strengthening strategic decision-making and enlivening everyday interactions.

CONSTRUCTION: Landscape Materials & Management

Landscape is a responsive and changing media. Our research in to plant performance, soil dynamics, landscape management, and advanced fabrication techniques enhances our capacity to imagine and realize opportunities for aesthetic novelty and ecological productivity.

Exploration is the engine of design; the foundation of professional excellence. The firm applies this ethos; extending its practice to include targeted research initiatives that investigate fundamental questions about design and construction. Our research themes inform and frame these pursuits as we work across scales from the philosophical and theoretical to the applied and pragmatic. The questions we explore are in dialogue with broader disciplinary and professional conversations; seeking to both learn from and contribute to a more informed and integrated design process. In this collaborative pursuit we actively partner with a broad range of stakeholders, institutions, and governments to maximize and expand impact.