DEFTSPACE LAB

We create media about better places for people and the environment.

We coach and consult on projects, education, and designs focused on sustainability, healthy environments, clean energy, and social justice.

Our work serves community members, activists, students, local governments, and professionals in design, planning, and engineering. 

Susan Dieterlen RLA PhD

Susan Dieterlen RLA PhD

Founder, DeftSpace Lab

Meet Susan

Susan is a landscape architect who started asking questions about big topics and never stopped.

The answers led her to become a researcher, a professor, an author, and a podcaster passionate about helping people understand their surroundings and why they matter.

Susan is committed to connecting real places with real research for a more sustainable and inclusive future. Climate change, inequality, and public health problems can all seem hopeless, but we *do* have knowledge and strategies to make things better, right now, for all of us. Susan is passionate about helping people understand the places around them and empowering them to make those places healthier and stronger.

Susan’s Inspiration 

30% Wild Inspiration

Bears and the hiking trail in my backyard inspired me to create 30% Wild, a podcast about the stories and science of living near nature, to make life in the nearby outdoors more comfortable and more fun for more people. Join us for Season 1 about scary animals right in the backyard!

Design by Deficit Inspiration

I stumbled across a grand but overgrown staircase in the woods behind a city school, and wrote Design by Deficit, a book about how neglect creates accidental cities, out of sight behind our backs. 

Immigrant Pastoral Inspiration

Outdoor parties and Spanish on stores in rural Indiana changed me from a park designer to the author of Immigrant Pastoral, about Midwestern landscapes and Mexican-American Neighborhoods. 

When not working, Susan is probably outside on a trail or in her garden, peering into the woods and looking for bears.

  • Susan has been teaching all her life, but started getting paid for it in 2007. Now she does classesworkshops, and talks on all these topics, and a lot more
  • There’s nothing more fun than kicking ideas around through coaching and consulting with people excited to get their own projects off the ground
  • Susan loves pushing design into where it’s needed, like bringing clean, renewable energy into distressed urban neighborhoods, first in a semester-long design class and then in a year-long research project on microgrids
  • Susan studies how nature makes us healthier and happier, and what happens when cities unravel