Landscape Architecture

This year, on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Design With Nature, the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design launched a new research and education center named for its legendary author, the Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology, along with a conference and a series of exhibitions meant to investigate McHarg’s legacy.

Erle Ellis (left) and Ursula Heise (right) in conversation with the Weitzman School's Karen M'Closkey at Penn's Annenberg Center, June 21, 2019

Ursula Heise and Erle Ellis shared the stage at Penn’s Annenberg Center to mark the official launch of the Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology and to kick off Design With Nature Now, a weekend-long conference and summer-long exhibit celebrating the fifty-year anniversary of McHarg’s most famous publication, Design With Nature.

To be a designer, says Laurie Olin, you have to be an optimist.

“If you’re not an optimist, you’re a preservationist,” he explains during an interview for Sitting Still, a new documentary in production for release next year. “If I didn’t think I could make the world better through my efforts why would I do this?”

Described by some as an “irreverent urban warrior” with a “profoundly social vision,” Olin, a distinguished teacher, author, artist, and one of the most renowned landscape architects practicing today, is the focus of the in-the-works film.

“The title, Sitting Still, grew from Olin saying that one of the best methods devised to learn from the world is to actually be in it and sit still,” says Gina Angelone, the filmmaker. “That’s what Laurie does: He wanders out into the world with a sketchbook in hand, sits, draws and observes life.”

Stephanie Carlisle, lecturer in landscape architecture and Nicholas Pevzner, senior lecturer in landscape architecture, contributed articles to the two most recent issues of DOMUS magazine. In the March 2019 issue, their article looks at the role of coal and rare metals mining in environmental degradation and social unrest. Their article article in the April 2019 issue examines the concept of ecosystem services, where the City of New York has assigned a value for the ecological benefits of each street tree in the city.

This is the time of year when DesignIntelligence surveys students and professionals about the best architecture and design schools in the U.S. Today, we’re calling on alumni, students, and friends to ensure that the enduring value of a Penn education is acknowledged.

A Fall Landscape Architecture 2019 studio, A Greater Bay Area? (Or, Urban Futures with Chinese Characteristics) was designed as an opportunity for students to engage with a region that is far larger than what they may have worked with in the past, and think through how it might work in the future.

At the edges of cities and metro regions across the world—the peri-urban landscapes where developed land and rural land overlap—human settlements are pushing up against sensitive plant and animal habitats and threatening to accelerate the already swift decline of biodiversity on earth. Such conflicts are common. But in some cities, where growth is encroaching on ecosystems rich with unique species, called biodiversity hotspots, the threat is particularly acute. Those are the places that Richard Weller, the Martin and Margy Meyerson Chair of Urbanism and professor and chair of landscape architecture at the Univeristy of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design, has identified as "hotspot cities." They were the subject of a two-day symposium that drew planners, conservationists, and policymakers. 

Joining the students, guests, and faculty gathered at Irvine Auditorium for the 2019 Commencement Ceremony was Stuart Weitzman, the award-winning designer for whom the School of Design was named in late February, and the evening’s featured speaker.

Richard Weller, the Martin and Margy Meyerson Chair of Urbanism and professor and chair of landscape architecture at the Stuart Weitzman School of Design, has spent years researching points of conflict between urban development and the natural environment, and released a report last year looking at Hotspot Cities, where development patterns threaten critical centers of biodiversity. David Gouverneur, Associate Professor of Practice in the Department of Landscape Architecture, has run a series of design studios looking at informal settlements and disaster recovery in Latin American cities. This spring, Weller and Gouverneur joined forces for a design studio focused on managing urban growth and protecting natural habitats in Bogotá.

 Photo © Paul Zizka

Design With Nature Now, echoing the title of McHarg’s 1969 book Design With Nature, takes visitors on a global tour of 25 ongoing or completed projects in 21 nations—from China to the United States, and from Columbia to New Zealand—to measure the political, environmental, and economic dimensions of landscape architecture as practiced today.

In 2015, after a summit in Beijing focused on challenges in Chinese cities, Professor of Architecture and Urban Design and former Dean Marilyn Jordan Taylor, along with Meyerson Chair of Urbanism, Professor and Chair of Landscape Architecture Richard Weller and Professor of Architecture Ali Rahim, launched a two-year joint research initiative with Chinese scholars. She also helped secure a grant from AECOM to run a series of design studios focused on urbanization in China. And just last month, Taylor, Rahim, and Weller hosted a two-day event called the Penn-China Design Dialogues in Beijing, with three panels focused on urban design, architecture, and landscape architecture.

Photo © OLIN / Sahar Coston-Hardy

Laurie Olin, practice professor emeritus of landscape architecture at PennDesign, will receive an honorary doctor of arts degree at the 2019 Commencement Ceremony for his many contributions to the design profession. 

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