Welcome Landscape Architecture Students

Admitted Landscape Architecture students, welcome and congratulations! This section contains information to help you prepare for the MLA program. First, you are encouraged to attend the PennDesign Open House on Monday, March 27. There you will have the opportunity to meet faculty and students, tour the facilities, and experience first-hand the unique culture at PennDesign. If you can’t make it to Philadelphia for Open House, please contact Darcy Van Buskirk (darcyv@design.upenn.edu) to arrange a visit at another time.

The MLA at a Glance

Our educational philosophy and mission is to cultivate future leaders, to develop critical thinkers and to produce the world’s best designers. We consistently hear from senior industry representatives that graduating PennDesign students have the best design folios and the most comprehensive skill sets. And, responding to the national survey conducted by DesignIntelligence, over 90% of Penn’s landscape students consistently evaluate their education as “excellent.”  

As a student in the Department of Landscape Archtecture, you join the extraordinary legacy set by the field’s most important figures: Ian McHarg, Laurie Olin, Anne Whiston-Spirn, John Dixon HuntAnu Mathur, and James Corner. This legacy motivates Penn faculty and students to be critical and experimental like no other school. Richard Weller, the chair of Landscape Architecture, is a devoted teacher with a background in both professional practice and academia and is dedicated to maintaining the world’s leading landscape architecture program. Read more about the 100-year story of landscape architecture at Penn in Transects
Our curriculum is organized so that subjects in the three streams of media, theory, and workshop all support the centerpiece of the design studio in a coherent way. Everything is designed to relate to the design studio, which in turn makes the quality of design produced in the studio stronger. We also have new subjects in urban ecology, the history and theory of ideas of nature, contemporary urbanism, cutting edge computation, detailed design, leadership, and publishing, as well as the fast-emerging area of resilience in relation to climate change. Our annual publication Process summarize the curriculum and the results of our studios. 
PennDesign is the only landscape architecture program in the world to publish two professional journals, LA+ and Scenario, produced by faculty and students, and the program serves as the host and originator for some of the most important events in the global landscape architecture calendar, such as the recent Summit on landscape architecture resulting in the New Landscape Declaration. We are now planning a range of events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ian McHarg’s magnum opus Design With Nature in 2019.

Important Dates

Mon, March 27PennDesign Open House
Mon, July 31First day of Summer Institute for 3-year MLA I students
Mon, August 7Landscape Architecture Welcome Session
Mon, August 7First day of Summer Institute for 2-year MLA II students
Fri, August 25PennDesign New Student Orientation
Mon, August 28Landscape Architecture Orientaion; PennDesign Convocation & Happy Hour
Tues, August 29First day of fall classes


Summer Institute

All incoming MLA students are required to participate in Summer Institute prior to the start of the fall semester. Summer Institute begins Monday, July 31 for 3-year MLA I students* and Monday, August 7 for 2-year MLA II students. Summer Institute meets every weekday from approximately 9am to 5pm. A fee of $500 per one-week session will be charged to your student billing account.

Summer Institute Course Descriptions

Summer Institute for entering 3-year MLA I students:
M-F, Jul 31 - Aug 4, 9am-5pmLARP 789-901: Introduction to Design Language*
M-F, Aug 7-11, 8am-5pmLARP 790-901: Natural Systems
M-F, Aug 14-18, 9am-5pmLARP 791-901: Landscape Operations
M-Th, Aug 21-24, 9am-5pmLARP 792-901: Introduction to Digital Media
Summer Institute for entering 2-year MLA II students:
M-F, Aug 7-11, 9am-5pmLARP 793-901: Landform & Grading Workshop
M-F, Aug 14-18, 8am-5pmLARP 794-901: Natural Systems
M-Th, Aug 21-24, 9am-6:30pmLARP 795-901: PennDesign Computing Intro & Academic Writing Workshop

*LARP 789-901: Introduction to Design Language is required for students who do not have a background in landscape or architectural design. Those with a background in design will be waived from this requirement and should plan to begin Summer Institute on Monday, August 7.


Registration for fall courses is open through July 14, at which time the system closes for freshman registration. The system will reopen on July 26 and will remain open through the course add/drop deadline on September 19. General registration information, including FAQs for fall 2017, can be found here. Specific information for MLA students, including required courses, is available through the links below.

Summer & Fall Registration Info for 3-year MLA I Students

Summer & Fall Registration Info for 2-year MLA II Students

Safe Driver Training

Penn Landscape students participate in a number of exciting field trips each year, and to ensure the safety of all students during their travels, Penn requires that students who drive a university vehicle (or vehicle of their own) during any school-related trip, must complete Penn's online driver's safety training. Simply log in to Knowledge Link with your PennKey and password, search for "Driver Safety Training for Van Drivers" in the "Find Learning" field and complete the nine-module course (it will take approximately 1.5 hours to complete). Please notify Darcy Van Buskirk at darcyv@design.upenn.edu once you have completed the training so that we may confirm your results have been received by the Office of Risk Management. Please also submit a scanned copy of your driver's license and your cell phone number.

Computer Guidelines

Incoming MLA students are required to buy or bring a computer for your time as a student at PennDesign. Please see the Computer Purchasing Guidelines provided by PennDesign IT.

Get to Know Us Better

Margaret Gerhart (MARCH/MLA), Nick Parisi (MLA I) and Karli Scott (MLA II) are happy to answer any questions you may have about the Landscape Architecture program. Check out their student profiles and say hello! For a current student/ recent alumni contact list, please contact Darcy Van Buskirk (darcyv@design.upenn.edu).

Learn more about the faculty in the Department of Landscape Architecture on our People page.

Read about our publications and view student work in our annual Landscapes in Process catalog.