Letter from the Chair

The Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania has an extraordinary international legacy. First established in 1924 and later revitalized under the leadership of Professor Ian McHarg in the 1960s, the Department is founded on the principles of ecology, anchoring landscape architecture squarely within the earth sciences. The word “ecology” has its roots in the Greek οικολογία, translated literally as the “household of nature,” thus bringing home the everyday and entangled relationships between humans, plants, animals, and the mineral world.

Yet our understanding of ecology has evolved radically over the past century—our Department studies urban ecologies, material ecologies, and social ecologies, while reassessing our impact upon both the planet and each other as we address the climate crisis. We have rethought earlier ecological theories of successional progression to a steady climax state. Today, landscape architects consider the complex and messy conditions of resilience, disturbance, and indeterminacy, heightened by the social and environmental necessities of reparative justice and decarbonization.

At Penn, our exceptionally diverse landscape architecture students and faculty are engaged in new collaborative and powerful ways of thinking and researching, nimbly moving across scales from the high-altitude observations of the astronaut to the attentive fieldwork of the naturalist. Educating flexible design minds is more important than ever. We engage with multiplicities and complexities, and embrace novel strategies for reimagining future ecological relationships through the lens of social, environmental, and multispecies justice. We are designing the world we want to inhabit, advancing both the landscape profession and the discipline, and we look to the future with optimism.

Catherine Seavitt
Professor and Chair
Martin and Margy Meyerson Chair of Urbanism