Related publications:

Cantrell, Bradley, Zihao Zhang, and Xun Liu. 2021. “Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Landscape Architecture.” In The Routledge Companion to Artificial Intelligence in Architecture, 232–47.

Zhang, Zihao. 2020. “Cybernetic Environment: A Historical Reflection on System, Design, and Machine Intelligence.” JoDLA Journal of Digital Landscape Architecture 5–2020: 8.

Zhang, Zihao, and Ben Bowes. 2019. “The Future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) in Landscape Design: A Case Study in Coastal Virginia, USA.” Journal of Digital Landscape Architecture 4–2019: 2–9.

Cantrell, Bradley, and Zihao Zhang. 2018. “A Third Intelligence.” Landscape Architecture Frontiers 6 (2): 42–51.

Cantrell, Bradley, and Zihao Zhang. 2018. “Choreographing Intelligent Agents.” In 107th ACSA Annual Meeting Proceedings, Black Box.

Zhang, Zihao, and Shurui Zhang. 2020. “The Cybernetic Environment as a New Frontier.” Lunch Journal 14: 149.

This ongoing philosophical project concerning intelligence investigates the concept's development and present-day socio-cultural and environmental ramifications in parallel with the advancement of intelligent machines since the mid-20th century.

With the ascendance of machine learning and artificial neural networks, Allen Turing's 1950 question—"Can machines think?"—becomes obsolete today. AI systems are replacing humans in many decision-making processes, including environmental management. Machines become important actors in the co-production of the shared environment.

Since the late 1990s, posthumanism has made its way into 21st-century intellectual life, providing new frameworks to challenge human exceptionalism that underpins many contemporary issues, from systemic racism to climate change. Ideas such as assemblage thinking, actor-network theory (ANT), new materialism, and object-oriented ontology (OOO) transform how agency and intelligence—the individualistic anthropocentric concepts—may be conceptualized in favor of a non-human-centric mode of thinking.

With this posthumanist cognition, the question is not about whether machines can think -- like humans. The question is how we may recognize other forms of intelligence other than humans, which, in itself, is already embedded in an assemblage of more-than-human parts. Is there a different way to conceptualize intelligence outside the human-nonhuman spectrum? What is the role of intelligent machines other than optimization and automation?

Cultivated Wildness: Technodiversity and Wildness in Machines

April 2021
Authors: Zihao Zhang and Bradley Cantrell

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Cite this paper

Zhang, Zihao, and Bradley Cantrell. “Cultivated Wildness: Technodiversity and Wildness in Machines.” Landscape Architecture Frontiers, vol. 9, Apr. 2021, pp. 52–65. doi:10.15302/J-LAF-1-020040.

Zhang, Zihao, and Bradley Cantrell. 2021. “Cultivated Wildness: Technodiversity and Wildness in Machines.” Landscape Architecture Frontiers 9 (April): 52–65.

Zhang, Z., & Cantrell, B. (2021). Cultivated Wildness: Technodiversity and Wildness in Machines. Landscape Architecture Frontiers, 9, 52–65.

This paper investigates the idea of cultivated wildness at the intersection of landscape design and artificial intelligence. The paper posits that contemporary landscape practices should overcome the potentially single understanding on wilderness, and instead explore landscape strategies to cultivate new forms of wild places via ideas and concerns in contemporary Environmental Humanities, Science and Technology Studies, Ecological Sciences, and Landscape Architecture. Drawing cases in environmental engineering, computer science, and landscape architecture research, this paper explores a framework to construct wild places with intelligent machines. In this framework, machines are not understood as a layer of “digital infrastructure” that is used to extend localized human intelligence and agency. Rather machines are conceptualized as active agents who can participate in the intelligence of co-production. Recent developments in cybernetic technologies such as sensing networks, artificial intelligence, and cyberphysical systems can also contribute to establishing the framework. At the heart of this framework is “technodiversity,” in parallel with biodiversity, since a singular vision on technological development driven by optimization and efficiency reinforces a monocultural approach that eliminates other possible relationships to construct with the environment. Thus, cultivated wildness is also about recognizing “wildness” in machines.

Control and Uncertainty: Towards a Paradigm of Prototyping

September 2020
Authors: Zihao Zhang and Xun Liu

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Cite this paper

Zhang, Zihao, and Xun Liu. “Control and Uncertainty: Towards a Paradigm of Prototyping.” Landscape Architecture Frontiers, vol. 8, no. 4, 2020, pp. 10–25, doi:

Zhang, Zihao, and Xun Liu. 2020. “Control and Uncertainty: Towards a Paradigm of Prototyping.” Landscape Architecture Frontiers 8 (4): 10–25.

Zhang, Z., & Liu, X. (2020). Control and Uncertainty: Towards a Paradigm of Prototyping. Landscape Architecture Frontiers, 8(4), 10–25.

This paper maps out a new paradigm of prototyping that acts as an alternative to the model-making paradigm. By juxtaposing the cybernetics movement with landscape design, the authors have mapped out a development in landscape discourse that mirrors the movement of cybernetics in the 20th century and early 21st century. The early deterministic and linear understanding of systems dynamics is replaced by an emergent and open-ended view. Taking on a framework of emergence, the authors highlight a special type of model that does not fit within the conventional modelpredict- control framework. Rather than models that represent another living system, these models are living systems in themselves with autonomy and lives. This special type of model can be understood as prototypes. Prototyping replaces model-making and exhibits three distinctive qualities: 1) A prototype has a life of its own, which serves as the basis for design and creativity; 2) The real usefulness of a prototype lies in its undefined identity rather than its defined and direct application; And 3) the identified quality provides a wide range of possibilities, thus changing our relationship with the future from chance and prediction to anticipation and hope.

Climate Solidarity


Project Website

Zihao Zhang | Landscape Architecture, CCNY
Katherine K. Chen | Sociology, CCNY
Yana Kucheva | Sociology, CCNY
Catherine Seavitt | Landscape Architecture, CCNY
Shawn Rickenbacker | Architecture, CCNY
Michael Bobker | Engineering, CCNY
Ahmed Mohamed | Engineering, CCNY
Prathap Ramamurthy | Engineering, CCNY
Huy T. Vo | Computer Science, CCNY
Zhigang Zhu | Computer Science, CCNY

Related Publications
Zhang, Zihao, and Shurui Zhang. “Mapping Landscape Architects’ Expertise in Climate Adaptation With Design Research Projects Over the Past Two Decades.” Landscape Architecture Frontiers 10, no. 2 (April 15, 2022): 71–81.

In 2021, the City College of New York launched an internal grant competition, the College-wide Research Vision. The competition challenged researchers to “harness paradigm shifting fundamental research to address challenging real-world problems by connecting diverse disciplines, techniques, and ways of thinking.”

A team called “Climate Solidarity”, led by 10 faculty members across four disciplines - architecture, sociology, engineering and computer science - was eventually selected as the winning team. The goal of this team is to create solidarity around climate actions and address issues around housing justice, climate adaptation, and energy production in New York City.