Emotional Infrastructure: Through time, place and disruption, fostering a culture of care in post-earthquake Christchurch, New Zealand

This research examines how everyday environments supported healing, grounding, and emotional re-settling for residents of Christchurch, New Zealand, following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. It uncovers the emotional infrastructure of post-earthquake Ōtautahi/Christchurch, defined as the social and spatial aspects of place that support emotional processing, sense of belonging, and a collective capacity for care. This conceptual framework is grounded in 16 in-depth qualitative interviews that yielded four key themes: stability, reference, understanding and agency, each emerging from residents’ descriptions of their post-earthquake experiences. Together, these four themes assist in the location of self in time and place when disturbance has ruptured attachments and prompted a loss of footing. With application beyond the context of the Christchurch earthquakes, this framework offers insight into processes of “unsettlement” and “re-settlement,” and associated emotional needs more broadly. Recognizing that the earthquakes disrupted what could be considered a damaging normal, this research highlights disturbance as a potential opportunity for a re-evaluation of values and priorities, a re-assertion of Indigenous identity, an infusion of creativity and intentionality in city-making, and a sense of shared purpose. Ultimately, this thesis advocates for a process of emotional infrastructuring that centers on fostering cultures of care, offering insight into the role of design and planning in reconciling the past, welcoming the future, and reframing disturbance as an opportunity for adaptation to a dynamic new normal.


First, Let us Look Together. through forests, trees, wood, and building 

Wood construction has grown out of the relationship between people and the landscapes they inhabit. Small diameter timber is a material that was once a key component of vernacular building around the world but is now problematized as a low-value byproduct of forest management. This thesis studies the material’s prevalence in Korean and Coast Salish architecture as a dimension of their respective traditional ecological knowledges. Their stories provide lessons that prompt us to question our contemporary relationships to materials and the landscapes that create them. To further explore this, I imagine Swan Creek Park in Tacoma, WA as a productive forest shaped over time by community memory, stewardship, and building.

Planning For Pest Readiness: Building Climate Resilience in Seattle’s Urban Forest with a Community-centric Approach

The urban forest not only plays an important role in providing ecological benefits, but it is also positively associated with public health, especially for communities of color and low-income people who already suffer from environmental injustice. In the fields of landscape architecture and urban forestry, invasive tree pests have rarely received much attention in the planning and design of the urban environment. Yet, they have the potential to weaken and kill massive amounts of trees because they can spread without the control of natural enemies. With the effects of climate change, urban trees will be under greater stress, which makes them even more vulnerable to pests.

This thesis focuses on pest resilience as an integral part of urban forest stewardship through a community-centric approach. Using GIS analyses and case studies, I identify the most ecologically and socially vulnerable communities in Seattle based on their susceptibility to pest infestation and summarize best practices for education and engagement for tree care. I further develop a community engagement framework with an emphasis on environmental justice, while providing resources and recommendations for the City of Seattle and community organizations to approach the pest issue. I also discuss the implications of this research for the urban forest departments in Seattle and for landscape designers.

Vertical Landscapes: Learning From a Rock Climbing Perspective

Within the field of landscape architecture, verticality is predominantly defined as a design tool. The variety of applications for vertical elements within design, and the spatial role they can play is well documented. However, there is a rapidly growing community that understands vertical spaces as inhabitable places: rock climbers. More and more people equipped with this unique perspective of the vertical are venturing out to monoliths of rock across the country, seeking new heights in various state and national parks. This perception of vertical spaces as places brings a new definition of the vertical to landscape architecture. To begin to understand this definition, this thesis explores the meanings, values, and experiences of rock climbers by utilizing Yosemite National Park as a case study along with firsthand knowledge of the sport. Placing landscape architecture in conversation with rock climbing presents a number of takeaways for the profession including a shift in the perception of vertical space and the way it is designed, a tool for developing knowledge related to the vertical, and a deeper understanding of the embodied experience of rock climbers. With this recognition, landscape architects can better design for and with rock climbers to protect and manage climbing areas as well as create new opportunities for vertical experiences.

Living Laboratory: A Circular Framework for North Seattle College

This thesis proposes North Seattle College as a laboratory to explore the future of sustainable development at the district scale. Incorporating principles of circular cities, regenerative design, and the Water-Food-Energy Nexus into the North Seattle College campus allows the school and its users to move beyond limiting their impacts and minimizing resource use; they will begin giving back to the earth. North Seattle College is a prime location to explore how integrating the flows of food, water, and energy into circular systems can allow a college campus to operate more sustainably and inter-dependently within the broader ecological context. As cities continue to increase in density and the problems caused by climate change continue to intensify, it is important for cities to become more sustainable and resilient. Holistic sustainable design, that prioritizes the health of ecological systems, lessens a city’s ecological footprint and mitigates the negative impacts on the environment by designing efficient buildings, generating energy on site and closing resource loops.  The future of urban living will rely on thinking holistically about the way buildings situate themselves within the urban fabric and the relationships these buildings have with the surrounding ecological systems. To maximize the impact of sustainable design, systems should be organized at the scale of city districts where resource flows become evident. Buildings should push their systems beyond the building and influence the surrounding environment on an ecological and social level.

Unsettling Prairies: A Critical Reimagining of Fire Management in Cities

Climate projections for 2050 expect Puget Sound regional temperatures will likely increase by 2.9-5.4 degrees Fahrenheit, temperatures more suitable for a mosaic of fire-resilient landscapes such as prairies, grasslands and oak savannas. Through fire, Indigenous people of this region have stewarded these landscapes since time immemorial. But because of settler colonialism and its legacy, these ecocultural landscapes are increasingly disappearing. This thesis argues that landscape designers must decolonize our methods by asking two questions in order to actively engage in prairie revitalization and Tribal co-generation surrounding prairie revitalization. First, how can a decolonizing design framework support the subsequent fire management of prairies in both wildland and urban areas? Second, how can a decolonizing design framework disrupt then deepen landscape architecture to support fire-dependent prairie habitat revitalization within the Pacific West? I propose the Decolonizing Design Framework (DDF) which includes five practices that can potentially integrate within existing landscape design methods (site analysis, conceptual design, participatory design, design-build and landscape management). The five practices are: (1) to honor Tribal sovereignty, 2) to respect the personhoods of biotic and abiotic life that exist on any given site, 3) to co-generate with a Tribe on shared climate adaptation goals, 4) to center long-term care of the land, and 5) to value multispecies epistemologies. I then implement and analyze the DDF in two case studies, the Camas Monitoring Project on the University of Washington – Seattle campus and the UW-Karuk Klamath Project, and present the findings through an autoethnographic method.

Design with Diploria: Coral Infrastructure for a New Coastal Future

The growing stressors of global climate change and urbanization have brought about the decline of one of our planet’s most critical biomes – coral reefs. As coral reefs vanish, we lose not only their surrounding ecologies and economics, but also their structural complexity, which allows them to efficiently serve as natural breakwaters that protect coastlines from flooding and erosion. Design with Diploria showcases a multi-site exploration of these entanglements within Miami’s urban context by working to restore an enigmatic, but diminished, local ecosystem as an infrastructural and social resilience strategy. This proposal aims to both foster coral resilience in tandem with urban resilience and to reconcile urban activity with coral ecosystem health in a way that creates equity and kinship across species lines.

Learn about Matt’s work at mattgrosser.design.



Nourishing Neighborhoods: Cultivating Local Food Connections in the Urban Environment

Have you ever walked by fruit trees in your neighborhood and wondered what kind of fruit they were producing and whether you could pick it?

By tracing the history of food in Seattle, from the native plants that have long fed Coast Salish people to the globally sourced food imported today, this design research examines local food production systems in Seattle’s neighborhoods and how they can be enhanced for the future. How can urban food that is cultivated on public land nourish neighborhoods while providing opportunities for education and engagement? This exploration demonstrates how app technology, mapping, and recipes can connect communities to urban nature and food history.

Pier Pressure: Addressing Ecological Opportunities of Nearshore Infrastructure in Lake Washington’s Union Bay

Along much of Seattle’s freshwater shorelines, seemingly isolated problems like erosion and shading are compounded and repeated by docks, piers, and houseboats.

This results in a much bigger ecological problem: the erasure of the critical nearshore habitat that supports all life in the lake. What innovations in nearshore infrastructure design can provide multifunctional benefits for people and the environment?

This design thesis considers the existing conditions of five representative zones along the University of Washington’s waterfront. Insights from restoration ecologists, engineers, local experts, and trends in aquatic infrastructure inform the design of this urban site. Pier Pressure proposes holistic solutions through a systems approach that enhances built interventions through ecological design.

Voices of Impact: Assessing the Felt Impacts of Open-Pit Gold and Copper Mining in British Columbia

Northern British Columbia is rapidly becoming one of the largest open-pit gold and copper mining regions in the world. Salmon bearing river systems connect communities of Southeast Alaska and British Columbia, supporting rich ecological diversity. Subsistence lifestyles that have supported First Nations people for over 10,000 years are in jeopardy as a result of irresponsible mining practices and inadequate public consultation. The rapid growth of this extraction industry has compromised downstream fishing economies, cultural traditions and identities that depend on healthy rivers and landscapes. This project uses story mapping as a tool to analyze the impacts experienced by people in the watershed and highlight the need for bringing more human experience into environmental impact assessments.

View the project website