The Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design was initially established in 1924 and later revitalized under the leadership of Professor Ian McHarg in the 1960s. The Department is recognized internationally for its innovative ecological approach to the design of landscapes, public works, public spaces, and infrastructures. Ecology addresses the rich and entangled web of everyday environmental relationships between living things—humans, plants, and animals—as well as the mineral world. The Department’s faculty and students continue to advance the landscape discipline through design research at multiple scales, from seeds to systems, from urban to rural, and from a multiplicity of positions. A diversity of ecological approaches to our planet’s many natures and cultures is necessary to address the ongoing climate crisis as we work toward both decarbonization and reparative social and environmental justice. Landscape architecture has the capacity to change the earth; we are world-builders equipped with design imagination.
The Department of Landscape Architecture’s professional curriculum supports exploratory independent research and inventive design while encouraging collaborative learning in both the classroom and the field. The curriculum has four distinct interconnected sequences of coursework: Studio, Workshop, Theory, and Media. The sequence works both horizontally and vertically across the three years, encouraging students to expand their critical thinking and creative imagination while gaining techniques for visualizing and realizing their ideas in the world. Advanced studios in the final year of study allow students to select from a wide array of options that investigate critical topics around the world. In their final year students may also pursue their own independently conceived research projects.
The Department’s landscape faculty is internationally distinguished and provides expertise in design, urbanism, representation, technology, plant science, and history and theory. In their research and teaching, faculty specialize in subjects such as advanced digital modeling, global biodiversity, environmental justice, decarbonization, green energy policy, nature-based infrastructures, cultural geography, environmental sensing, the interface of nature and technology, and brownfield regeneration. In addition, leading international practitioners and theorists are regularly invited to lecture, teach research seminars, or lead advanced design studios. Together with strong links to the other departments in the School and the wider university, the Department is exceptionally well-served by talented and committed educators and practitioners.
The Department’s flagship research center is the The Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology. The McHarg Center is active in the core research areas of climate policy and post-carbon futures; biodiversity and global land use planning; public realm equity and reparative justice; and environmental modeling, sensing, and visualization. The Department is represented in the broader public and academic arenas by a prolific array of significant books by faculty (see Faculty Publications) and the award-winning biannual journal LA+, devoted to advancing interdisciplinary ideas and expanding critical inquiry through the lens of landscape architecture.
The Department offers two primary courses of study leading to a professionally accredited Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA). The first professional degree program is three years in length and is designed for students with an undergraduate degree in a field other than landscape architecture or architecture. The second professional degree is two years in length and is designed for those who already hold an accredited bachelors degree in either landscape architecture or architecture. Students may be admitted with advanced standing into the first professional program depending upon their respective backgrounds. Dual degree programs with architecture (MLA/MARCH), city planning (MLA/MCP), historic preservation (MLA/MSHP), urban spatial analytics (MLA/MUSA), fine arts (MLA/MFA), or environmental science (MLA/MES) are also available. The Master of Landscape Architecture degree may be combined with Weitzman certificate programs, such as the Urban Design Certificate. The Department also offers a Certificate in Landscape Studies, designed for students who may wish to augment or focus their prior work through research into landscape topics.