Live Matter

Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study

École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Revealing the concealed foundations of plant life.

Live Matter

Live Matter concerns itself with the ongoing measure of the natural world—how plant life has been described, muted, and labeled throughout botanical history—to reveal a new discourse that delights in an attitude of discovery, one that acknowldges the alivenss of plants. From microscopic activity to the relationship between form and environment, plants can be studies as a living subject outside of classificatory ideologies. Once a recognition of the totality of the plant is made, the possibilty of evoloving plant form is revealed. The project as a whole offers a provocative new perspective on the living, breathing organisms that are all around us, yet seldom fully appreciated.

Live matter advocates for the inclusion of plant morphology, in the study of plant life in landscape architecture. Morphology is the study of transformation in plants. 

As a science, it provides context and meaning to explain how plants grow, rather than describing outward shape alone.  Morphology envisions the totality of the plant, suggesting that the organism is an active whole, united by similar processes of formation. 

While botanical science continues to manipulate plants to construct the choicest fruits, the stoutest stalks, or an excess of seed, landscape architects have yet to apply their spatial imagination to design or invent plants. Perhaps landscape architects could broaden the perspective from the environmental sciences that accentuate our large-scale ambitions, so that we could attend to the much smaller scale of the transformations and formations of the plant. Each microscopic fragment culminates in a macrocosmic reading of the subject as a whole.

Elkin R.S. “Live Matter: Towards a theory of Plant life in Landscape Architecture” in Journal for Landscape Architecture, JoLa. (Spring 2017). Peer Review.


Archizoom Gallery, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) 

With generous support from La Ville De Lausanne.

Publication, Installation, Photography


EPFL_LIVE MATTER_2016_spreads

Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Johnson-Kulukundis Family Gallery

With generous support from the Harvard Arnold Arboretum

Publication, Instalation, Photography


RADCLIFFE_book cover
Elkin_front_3_26 copy
RADCLIFFE_book spreads