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Initially established in 1924 and later revitalized under the leadership of Professor Ian McHarg in the 1960s, the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning is recognized around the world for its pioneering contributions to ecological planning and design. Today, the Department advances this legacy through its commitment to innovative design as informed by ecology, the history of ideas, techniques of construction, new media, and contemporary urbanism. The work of both faculty and students reflects the ambitious character and intense design focus of the Department, and continues to be deeply influential internationally. Rapidly changing social and cultural conditions around the world require that future professionals will be able to respond with new concepts, forms and methods of realizing projects, and it is to the global future that we look.
The diversity of the profession of landscape architecture is well represented at Penn. Students are introduced both to the varied scales of landscape architecture and encouraged to critically challenge and extend the field’s scope. These concerns are most developed in the design studios, where students are encouraged to explore and expand their own creativity while learning the necessary conceptual, visual and technical skills to properly develop their work. Courses in history and theory, technology (ecology, horticulture, earthwork, construction, and project management), and visual and digital media are synchronized with the studios. Advanced, speculative work takes place in the final year of study, where students may choose from a wide array of studios which fan out around the world. In their final year students may also pursue their own independently conceived research projects.
The faculty is internationally distinguished and provides expertise in design, urbanism, representation, technology, and history and theory. In their research and teaching, faculty specialize in subjects such as advanced digital modeling, global biodiversity, landscape urbanism, urban ecology, form and meaning of design, cultural geography, representation, brownfield regeneration and detail design. In addition, leading practitioners and theorists around the world are regularly invited to lecture, run seminars, or teach advanced studios. Together with very strong links to the other departments in the School and the wider university the Department is exceptionally well served by talented and committed teachers, each a major authority or emerging voice in the field. Similarly, Penn faculty are renown for the exceptional quality of their built works of landscape architecture, for example; Richard Weller’s National Museum of Australia, James Corner’s Highline and Laurie Olin’s Bryant Park, both in Manhattan.
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 areas of coastal risk and resilience, megaregional urban growth, the social and environmental role of public space in cities and land use planning related to climate change adaptation. The department is represented in the broader public and academic arenas by a prolific array of important books from faculty (see Faculty Publications) and two biannual journals devoted to advancing ideas and critical inquiry in Landscape architecture: Scenario and LA+
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 either of these programs 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), or fine arts (MLA/MFA) 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.