Michelle Arevalos Franco seeks to cultivate thriving ecological and social relations through the work of landscapes. Critical to this work is the interrogation of race, class, and knowledge stratification inherent to contemporary landscape architecture practice. Franco’s recent publications are informed by her Mexican roots and explore landscape architecture’s dependence on Latinx immigrant labor for construction and maintenance. This work is both academic and activist, calling for institutional and individual reforms within the discipline and illuminating landscape architecture’s complex political and social entanglements with immigration.
Franco’s pedagogy and practice clarify the emancipatory potential of collective landscape labor. She aims to re-value the physical work and embodied knowledge necessary to the creation of regenerative, sustainable futures. In her courses, students learn the importance of collective social relations and envision how to foster and sustain them. This landscape work, as commoning, is a bodily- and community-engaged alternative to patron-based models of landscape production. Deeply rooted in collectivity, interdependence, and egalitarian organization, these novel practices aim to mend social, racial, and ecological degradation resulting from capital-centric spatial production.
Franco is an assistant professor in landscape architecture at The Ohio State University and founder of Más Común. She was a landscape designer at Oehme, van Sweden & Associates in Washington, DC and holds a master’s degree in landscape architecture from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, where she received the Peter Walker Partners Fellowship and the American Association of University Women’s Selected Professions Fellowship. Prior, Franco was program director of The Richard Avedon Foundation in New York and received a bachelor’s of fine art (magna cum laude) from the University of Arizona.
Recently published / presented:
Care's Repair, Landscape's Labor (Landscape Research, November, 2023)
We are Landscapers: Research and Pedagogy at the Scale of Labor (Society of Architectural Historians, April 2023)
Invisible Labor: Precarity, Ethnic Division, and Transformative Representation in Landscape Architecture Work (Landscape Journal, May 2022)
Working at the Scale of Labor: Practice and Pedagogy (Ecological Landscape Association, February 2024)
Migration and Maintenance: Mesoamerican Making of Landscapes in El Norte (Dumbarton Oaks, 2024/25)
In the media:
Sisson, Patrick. “The Construction Industry Needs Undocumented Workers. So Why is Nothing Being Done to Help Them?” BizNow, August 8, 2023.
Mortice, Zach. “What Landscapers Can Teach Landscape Architects.” Bloomberg CityLab, July 26, 2023. Feature on The Diggers Studio
Berg, Nate. “Wage Theft is Rampant Among Construction Workers. This App Helps Them Get Their Money Back.”
Terremoto. “Fair Trade: Landscape Architecture Design Studio Terremoto Addresses Labor Exploitation in its Industry.”