PennDesign News

Posted June 24, 2016
  • The LAF Summit at Irvine Auditorium, Photo: LAF

  • PennDesign's Karen M'Closkey at Irvine Auditorium, Photo: LAF

  • Toast and Closing Remarks at Meyerson Hall, Photo: LAF

PennDesign Hosts Historic Landscape Architecture Foundation Summit

More than 700 landscape architects, architects, designers, environmentalists and other professionals came together at Penn this month for a two-day Summit on Landscape Architecture and the Future organized by the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF). Even before PennDesign Dean Marilyn Jordan Taylor took the stage to welcome attendees, it was set to be a historic gathering for PennDesign, Philadelphia, and the profession. 
Fifty years earlier, at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, a small group of passionate and forward-looking landscape architects were assembled by the LAF to address the environmental crisis. Among them was Ian McHarg, chair of the PennDesign’s Department of Landscape Architecture for three decades, and they issued a sobering and ambitious Declaration of Concern.
“What is merely offensive or disturbing today threatens life itself tomorrow,” they wrote. “The environment is being built hastily and too often without such professional advice or help. In the process, far too much is damaged beyond recall.” 
For the 2016 Summit, 25 new declarations were commissioned by the Foundation from leading practitioners from near and far—“a representative diversity of views reflecting the breadth and depth of where we are at as a profession, and where we think we should go,” said Richard Weller, Professor and Chair of Landscape Architecture and LAF board member.
Weller moderated the opening session, which laid out some of the Summit’s major themes: expanding the profession’s purview, particularly in the developing world; landscape architecture’s capacity to expand and manipulate the socio-economic forces of speculative development; technical urbanism and the sociology of public space; and the profession’s ability to integrate the cultural and ecological landscape at the planning scale. These were presented by Dirk Sijmons, former State Landscape Architect of the Netherlands; Gehl Studio’s Blaine Merker; Kansas State University’s Alpa Nawre; and Christopher Marcinkoski, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at PennDesign, who traveled back to Philadelphia from Rome, where he is a Fellow at the American Academy. 
PennDesign was well represented throughout the proceedings. Dean-designate Fritz Steiner led a panel discussion on what the profession’s recent history tells us about its future with revered Canadian landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, National September 11th Memorial co-designer Peter Walker, and Laurie Olin, Professor of Practice in the Department of Landscape Architecture. (For those on social media, “legends” was the hashtag of choice to describe the panelists.) Also representing PennDesign were Professor James Corner, Associate Professor of Practice David Gouverneur, Associate Professor Karen M'Closkey, Professor Anuradha Mathur, and Adjunct Associate Professor Ellen Neises; recent alumna Joanna Karaman (MLA/MCP’15) took part in a panel of emerging practitioners moderated by Adjunct Professor and LAF board member Cindy Sanders
The LAF is now drafting a Declaration for the 21st Century, which will be made public in New Orleans this October at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Society for Landscape Architects.