Landscape Architecture

Posted November 18, 2022
  • "The Landscape Project" is the first-ever publication from the Department of Landscape Architecture to collect essays by the faculty.

'The Landscape Project' Explores Design Agency in the 21st Century

Landscape architecture now has its own “little black book."

The Landscape Project, as this compact leather-bound volume with embossed cover is titled, is the latest publication from the Department of Landscape Architecture. Launched earlier this month in San Francisco at the 2022 ASLA conference, it brings together 18 provocative essays by 20 members of the faculty on the myriad ways landscape architects today engage with agriculture, energy, water, urbanism or another issue through the agency of design—and how they could do so in the future. 

“We wanted to make a book that showcases what a great teaching and research team we now have at Penn, and it contains a diversity of manifestos that don’t shy away from the issues we now face,” says Weller, professor and chair of landscape architecture, Martin and Margy Meyerson Chair of Urbanism, and co-executive director of The Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology at Weitzman. 

Weller co-edited The Landscape Project with Tatum Hands, who is editor in chief of LA+, the award-winning interdisciplinary journal on landscape architecture published by the Department. The book was designed by Elliot Bullen, a dual Master of City Planning and Master of Landscape Architecture student in his final year at Weitzman.

Of the book’s origins, Weller explains, “During the COVID-19 lockdown, the faculty did a series of online lectures to inspire our students, and they were so good, we realized we had the raw material for a book. And surprisingly, although our program is 99 years old, not once has it put together a volume of work by the faculty.”

Of the book’s bigger aims, Weller and Hands write in the afterword:

The foresight of design, without a naïve belief in technofixes, is all we have. In addition to language, it’s all humans have ever really had. The redesign of modern objects, systems, and settlements—the relics of a fossil-fueled world—will happen, but it will not be easy and it will not be fast. And although in that time there will be horrendous loss, there is reason for optimism in a climate-changed world. As the world urbanizes and global population declines, and as the energy transition to renewables simultaneously builds, the anthropogenic pressure on the earth system will lessen. Add to this the possibility that through the climate crisis humanity will not just be reminded of its hubris, but it will be profoundly humbled, then the physical and metaphysical prerequisites for us to enter into a more symbiotic and less parasitic relationship with the earth will be established. In the interim, design has to work at absorbing the shock, creating refugia, limiting the suffering, and, wherever possible, bringing joy in being mortally of the earth. Every landscape project, no matter how small, is a part of this “bigger picture.”   

The contributors include, in chapter order: Richard Weller, Sean Burkholder, Sarah Willig, Frederick Steiner, Sonja Dümpelmann, Ellen Neises, Matthijs Bouw, Nicholas Pevzner, Christopher Marcinkoski, David Gouverneur, Robert Gerard Pietrusko, Karen M’Closkey, Keith VanDerSys, Valerio Morabito, Lucinda Sanders, Rebecca Popowsky, Sarai Williams, Billy Fleming, James Billingsley, and Tatum Hands.

Out now from Applied Research & Design/ORO Editions, The Landscape Project is available to order from bookstores and online retailers and expected to begin shipping in January.