Hi! I'm Val.

I design with social, ecological, and technological systems.

I discover, develop, and implement blueprints for transitions centered on resilience, decarbonization, regeneration, and repair.

With ten years of combined experience, I bring a unique background in the built environment, product and service design, tech innovation, cross-functional research, geospatial data, housing, land use, public policy, open science, grassroots organizing, and campaigning to effectively decarbonize, regenerate, and repair.

I most recently served as Advancement Director of the Earthshot Institute, a climate tech nonprofit centered on open science for planetary regeneration. I have also been coauthoring a book titled The Organizer's Guide to Architectural Education (Routledge, 2023) and coproducing a film on labor and architecture supported by a grant to organizations from the Graham Foundation.

Photo by Roberto Cornejo Crosby, courtesy of Earthshot Labs.


The Discipline and the Profession

An architect who only designs buildings is like a doctor who only prescribes paracetamol. — Chris Hildrey

Trained in the discipline of architecture, I practiced architecture professionally for four years in offices large and small located in Paris, Rotterdam, Zürich, Bogotá, Montréal, and New York City before expanding my practice and embracing systems design. I hold a Master in Architecture from Columbia GSAPP and a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from McGill University.

While the discipline of architecture connects in rhizomes a multitude of ways of knowing, its professional practice—as structured by institutions of licensure and accreditation—proved to be highly limited in scope, as well as insular and obsolete, not to mention structurally precarious, and extremely carbon intensive. The contrast between the discipline and the profession, juxtaposed with a world in crisis, fueled my interest in research and strategy towards global systemic change. I began to look for generative ways to implement at scale the ingenuous narratives, ideas, and interventions found in the discipline of architecture—those concerned with embodiment, infrastructure, the pluriverse, and situatedness; over time, I found a wealth of possibilities in systems design.

In graduate school, I co-founded with peers the A-Frame collective to explore social impact, early stage innovation, and architecture. With A-Frame, I organized panel conferences, workshops, career fairs, graduate seminars, explored innovative organizational design, and pitched startup projects.

Through a two year fellowship with the Columbia GSAPP Incubator at NEW INC, New Museum, I further pursued research and entrepreneurial projects; I engaged systems thinking and user experience design with the circular economy, cognitive and environmental science, artificial intelligence, and the history of ideas. Concurrently, I held a consultancy and freelance design practice with clients ranging from real estate developers, graphic design firms, electoral candidates, scientific initiatives, galleries, and museums, among others.

Subsequently, I joined The Architecture Lobby (TAL), a nonprofit focused on architecture and labor, where I developed and carried out theories of change engaging public policy, climate, housing, just transition pathways, and curricular reform. I served on the organizing team and led multiple campaigns such as the Architecture Beyond Capitalism (ABC) School 2021, What's your story?, and the Website Committee. I developed deep knowledge of climate change and housing justice.

My architecture training granted me with a significant ability to translate creative, conceptual, and critical narratives into detailed blueprints for actions designed to transform material conditions. I am skilled at building meaningful exchanges between technical and broad knowledge areas. I carved an alternative professional practice path centered on systems design, research, and strategy.

Systems Design

Internationalist Just Transition

Global North countries represent 25% of the world's population, possess 80% of its wealth, and collectively produce 92% of all global carbon emissions. Overcoming global warming and biodiversity loss requires a transformation of the scale of the industrial revolution at the speed of the digital revolution. Whether we continue with the status quo or take meaningful action, transition is inevitable. But justice is not. Transition could and should be designed to respond to the needs of communities most alienated by the carbon economy and communities of the frontline of the crisis. In other words, we need a global just transition.

Today, hundreds of satellites are orbiting the planet, collecting real time, high definition data of the social, ecological, and technological systems that together make our Earth. Cloud computing can support terabytes of data and foster collaboration faster than anytime before. AI, deep learning, and other machine learning models can process these data, make predictions, and advise decisions through prediction and forecasting models. Designing a global just transition could and should be activated by this powerful remote sensing apparatus and supported by strategies that transform land use incentive structures.

My interest in geospatial climate tech stems from this awareness.

I served as Advancement Director at Earthshot Institute, an early stage climate tech nonprofit operating under a joint umbrella with Earthshot Labs PBC, a carbon developer startup. At Earthshot, I worked closely with the Executive Director on developing an overall organizational strategy for the growth and scale of the mission of open science for planetary regeneration. I crafted an onboarding journey bringing hundreds of people into this collaborative community. I built a lab lifecycle framework bringing people of various backgrounds onto ecological science and data engineering research projects focused on achieving impact through specific ecosystem interventions.

As a lab manager, I co-organized the scientific monitoring of bison reintroduction to the ancestral landscape of the Shoshone tribe in the Wind River reservation in Wyoming; I supported efforts in assembling the scientific knowledge and geospatial products allowing the measurement, reporting, and verification of soil carbon to foster the creation of soil carbon credits benefiting indigenous tribes.

Social-ecological-technological systems overview, adapted from Chester et al. (2021).


Computers are easy, people are complex

My specialty lies in driving strategic connections across scales and expertises by developing and implementing blueprints for sustainability initiatives (research driven regenerative planning for supply chains in urban and rural landscapes, nature based climate solutions, geospatial data systems informed by carbon, biodiversity, and social engagement). I am skilled at leading cross-functional teams in fast-paced entrepreneurial environments to achieve innovative and measurable impact.

  • Innovating and prototyping new social-ecological-technological systems by harnessing the power of design thinking, lean frameworks, and agile project management.
  • Designing and launching new organizations, programs, products, and methodologies to decarbonize, regenerate, and repair.
  • Building and leading cross-functional teams through strategy custody.
  • Crafting transformative multimedia communication campaigns to build identity and mobilize action.
  • Bridging exchange between technical and broad knowledge areas to forge synergy.
  • Business development and fundraising.

Research Areas

Social-ecological-technological systems

Put broadly, I am interested in the interaction between humans, nature, and infrastructures. More specifically, I am looking to design systems coordinating the mutual flourishing of humans, nature, and infrastructures (technologies). The emerging framework of social-ecological-technological systems (SETs) powerfully instruments this purpose. It provides an overarching framework engaging the complex relationality of humans, nature, and infrastructure and supports positing various scenarios and strategies.

My focus on social-ecological-technological systems (SETs) is informed by the following research areas:

  • Global Just Transition
  • Land Use, Sociometabolism, Cities and the Built Environment
  • Geospatial Data, Remote Sensing, AI, Risk Tracking and Forecasting
  • Measurement Reporting Verification (MRV) and Carbon Credit Markets
  • Decolonization, Commoning, and the Pluriverse
  • Organizing, Critical Pedagogy, and Liberation


Now an entrenched New Yorker, I grew up, lived, and worked on four continents over two decades. Born in France, I am a dual citizen of France (European Union) and the United States of America. I enjoy code-switching, getting to know new languages, and connecting with experts from other fields. The animated graph below summarizes my migration history.

"Nobody lives everywhere,
everybody lives somewhere.

Nothing is connected to everything,
everything is connected to something."

Donna Harraway, Staying with the Trouble (2016)


With A-Frame peers at the GSAPP Incubator at NEW INC, New Museum.
On a panel with Miranda Massie, founder & director of the Climate Museum↝.
Shortly after constructing COSMO, winner of MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program.
Presenting DUO to the extended incubator community together with my creative partners.
Cyber-Alchemy 2.0 panelists at the GSAPP Incubator at NEW INC, New Museum.
Alongside a Cambodian soldier, field work in Preah Vihear, a territory disputed by Thailand.
Narrating local urban history to visitors with primary document facsimiles during 'A Prelude to the Shed.↝'
Meeting a client in Weihai, China together with my design partner Pulane.


This website was designed in New York City, on the ancestral land of the Lenape people. It was built with Webflow, a software company with headquarters in San Francisco, the ancestral land of the Ohlone people. This website is hosted on servers located in places unknown to me as data center real estate is hidden.


The typefaces used on this website is Epilogue, designed by Tyler Finck and ETC.

thank you for reading 

Let's chat. 

Email me at v.lechene@columbia.edu.