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Peter Aeschbacher
Associate Professor
Photo of Peter  Aeschbacher
Department of Architecture
Penn State Landscape Architecture
228 Stuckeman
814.865.0685

Peter Aeschbacher holds a joint appointment in the Department of Landscape Architecture and the Department of Architecture and is affiliated with the Hamer Center for Community Design. Trained as an architect, urban planner, and graphic designer, he has extensive national and international experience in design and community development. Aeschbacher has worked with arts-based, non-profit organizations, undertaken numerous community revitalization and affordable housing projects, and been an activist and advocate for social and environmental justice issues. He has also worked closely in and with underserved communities and marginal populations, including community-based projects involving at-risk youth in Los Angeles. These projects include the design and construction of community gardens and local parks, as well as environmental education initiatives. He is a former Frederick P. Rose Architectural Fellow (2000-03) with the Los Angeles Community Design Center.

He is a founding member of CityWorksLA and a former board member of the Association for Community Design. Aeschbacher has lived and traveled widely, including working as a graphic designer in Switzerland, where he also learned to bake bread. He worked in South Africa on community development projects during the transition from apartheid, arriving there by riding a motorbike across Africa.

Education

University of California, Los Angeles
• M.Architecture, School of the Arts & Architecture, 2000
• M.A. Urban Planning, School of Public Policy & Social Research, 2000

Kunstgewerbeschule, Zurich, Switzerland
• Landscape Architecture & Design studies, 1992-1993

Trinity University
• B.A., San Antonio, Texas 1991; Fine Art & Communication

Architecture studies, Copenhagen, Denmark, 1990

Courses Taught

  • Architecture and Planning Theories (Vitruvius to contemporary)
  • Contemporary History and Theory of Architecture
  • Design, Design Thinking, and Creativity (General Education offering)
  • Visual Communication (incl. 3d and CAD)
  • Art & Design Studio
  • Art & Design Theory
  • 5th Year Thesis Studio
  • Urban Design Studio | architecture
  • Neighborhood Planning & Community Design Studio | landscape architecture
  • Graduate Design Studio

DESIGN/BUILD

  • Digital Design & Fabrication
  • American Indian Housing Initiative
  • Architecture first-year design/build

SPECIAL COURSES

  • The Secret Life of Public Spaces; multi-disciplinary action research project on public space
  • Large Urban Parks Design Research Studio (New Orleans, LA)
  • Community Research, Theory and Fieldwork (Panama City, Panama)
  • American Indian Housing Initiative Cultural Landscape Design (Montana)

Research

My scholarship focuses on design as an action arm of social change. Design is a form of intentional action whose agency and effectiveness is highly dependent on political systems and social contexts. A central dilemma of contemporary urbanism is the tension between the agendas of top-down systems, the needs and rights asserted by self-organizing communities, and the roles and responsibilities of designers and planners to both. There exists a hidden history of social architecture and planning, one of successes alongside a long line of failed attempts to change the world through better design. Recovering this significant history while also recognizing emerging modes of resistance and entrepreneurial action, is critical to developing effective applications of planning, architecture and landscape architecture.

Through research, teaching and publications, I seek to contribute to this effort by developing a body of scholarship around several interrelated lines of inquiry:

  • Clarifying the mechanisms of design inquiry and action, with particular emphasis on making them accessible and practical
  • Revealing the historic development of social architecture and planning, with a focus on the Community Design Movement in the United States
  • Expanding the understanding and agency of design in the public interest in professional and community-engaged practice
  • How entrepreneurial action in the public realm by groups at the margins of formal structures creates citizenship and is evidenced in the built environment

Honors + Awards

  • President's Award for Engagement with Students, Penn State University (university-wide award across 24 campuses), 2014
  • Named to Schreyer Honors College Distinguished Faculty, 2014
  • National Education Honor Award for Creative Achievement, Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, 2013 (with Marcus Shaffer).
  • Scholar-in-Residence for Public Scholarship, Penn State Learning, 2009-2010
  • National Education Honor Award, American Institute of Architects and Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, 2008.
  • ‘Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania 2007 Innovation Award’ for Excellence in Design Initiative, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Authority (with the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh & Community Design Collaborative of Philadelphia), 2007
  • City of Los Angeles Public Service Commendation, 2005
  • Frederick P. Rose Architectural Fellowship, 2000-2003
  • City of Los Angeles Community Service Commendation, 2003

Exhibitions + Presentations

  • “Designing with Community Creates Positive Social Change: Tools for Empowerment” funded workshop at Design Futures Conference, University of Kansas (host), 2015
  • “How to Assemble Your World: The Building Blocks of Engagement” invited lecture, West Virginia State University. 2014               
  • Design for Equity: Bruner Loeb Forum, Harvard Graduate School of Design, invited participant, 2014
  • “A Design-based Approach to Active Living in Neighborhood Environments: Innovations for Parks and Recreation Systems”, at the Design & Health Summit on the Value of Design; AIA National Office, Washington, D.C. 2014
  • Schreyer Honors College Leadership Jumpstart Program presentation, workshop, and follow-up student groups sessions on creative problem solving (since 2013)
  • Session Chair, “Participation and Coproduction in Community Development” KULeuven Dept. of Architecture, Urbanism and Spatial Planning (ASRO). 2013
  • “Community-based Design and Planning in the United States” as part of symposium on “The Vicissitudes of Design and Participation in Urban Development”, KULeuven Dept. of Architecture, Urbanism and Spatial Planning (ASRO). 2013.
  • ‘Public Work: Design-based Action Research on Public Issues’ Lecture at University of Ghent Department of Architecture; Ghent, Belgium; 2013.
  • ‘Populism in U.S. Architecture and Planning in the 1960s’ Guest lecture, KULeuven Dept. of Architecture, Urbanism and Spatial Planning (ASRO); Leuven, Belgium, 2012.
  • ‘Good Inquiry Makes for Good Design’ for Urban Studies program at KULeuven Dept. of Architecture, Urbanism and Spatial Planning (ASRO); Leuven, Belgium, 2012.
  • ‘History of the Community Design Movement in the United States, 1960-1980’, JDS Belgian national research conference; Hasselt, Belgium, 2012.
  • ‘Doing Good, Doing Well? The Impacts of Social Engagement and Design/Build Programs on Early Professional Development’. Erasing Boundaries Symposium, New York City, NY, 2011.
  • ‘Visual Inquiry Methods in the Design Process’ as part of ‘Research & Design: How are they Related?’ Environmental Design Research Association annual conference; Washington, D.C. 2010
  • ‘Bodies, Space, Design: Ideas and Insights‘. Environmental Design Research Association annual conference; Washington, D.C. 2010
  • ‘A Case Study Framework for Service-Learning’. With Paula Horrigan (Cornell University) and Cheryl Doble (State University of New York). Pennsylvania/New York Campus Compact conference; Tannersville, PA. 2009
  • ‘The Daily Work of Community Design Centers’. With Joe Fama, Troy Architectural Program. Association for Community Design annual conference; Rochester, NY. 2009
  • ‘Parks, Small Cities and Active Living’. Association for Community Design annual conference; Rochester, NY. 2009
  • ‘Ethics and Design Education: The Pedagogy of Academic Service-Learning’. With Paula Horrigan (Cornell University); Cheryl Doble (State University of New York); Sigmund Shipp (Hunter College) and Mallika Bose (Pennsylvania State University). Environmental Design Research Association annual conference; Kansas City, MO. 2009
  • ‘Perspectives on Service/Learning as Substantive Research’, Erasing Boundaries conference on service/learning in architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning, City College, New York City. 2009
  • ‘Democracy and the Necessity for Spaces of Last Resort’, Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture Annual Meeting, Houston, TX. 2008
  • ‘Advances in gaining social and cultural site knowledge’, Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture annual meeting, University Park, PA. 2007
  • ‘in_visible cultures: An Evaluation of Interdisciplinary Project-Based Learning in Panama’; Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA; 2007
  • ‘Noses to the Grindstone: The Curiously Entangled Story of Practice, Education and Community Design’, Association for Community Design National Conference. 2006
  • ‘How Success is Challenging Community Design’, Association for Community Design National Conference. 2004
  • ‘Postcards from the Field’ Frederick P. Rose Architectural Fellowship Traveling Exhibition 2004
  • ‘Innovative Affordable Housing Prototypes’ Southeastern Contemporary Arts Museum, Traveling Exhibition, 2003

Publications

  • “Voices in the Thunderous Silence: Minority Architects in the Early Years of the Community Design Center movement.” Journal of the National Organization of Minority Architects. 2014
  • Aeschbacher, Peter and Fatima Pombo, ‘Impossible Totality: Design Interiors as Monsters’, IDEA Journal. 2014              
  • ‘Planning and Design Guidelines for Parks, Recreation and Healthy Living; Phase Two: Preparing for Implementation’, research report for Pottstown Health and Wellness Foundation (with Jawaid Haider and Mallika Bose) 2010
  • ‘Planning and Design Guidelines for Parks, Recreation and Healthy Living; Phase One: Built Environment Assessment’, research report for Pottstown Health and Wellness Foundation (with Jawaid Haider and Mallika Bose) 2009
  • ‘Design Research Findings for City Park, New Orleans’ 2008
  • ‘Claiming Public Space: The Case for Proactive, Democratic Design’, with Michael Rios; in Expanding Architecture: Design As Activism, edited by Bryan Bell and Katie Wakeford, 84-91. New York, NY: Metropolis Books, 2008.
  • ‘Community Design Centers in the United States’, in An Architektur: Produktion und Gebrauch Gebauter Umwelt, issue title: ‘Community Design. Involvement and Architecture in the US since 1963: Projects’, no. 19 (September 2008): 11-12.
  • Aeschbacher, Peter. ‘Design Inquiry and Public Work: Engaging New Orleans’ City Park’ Department of Landscape Architecture Newsletter 2007-2008
  • Book Review of ‘Landscape Urbanism’ for Landscape Architecture Magazine, 2007
  • ‘Engaging Communities, Enriching Design Education’ with Cheryl Doble; Progressive Planner; no.166, Winter 2006. Reprinted in An Architektur: Produktion und Gebrauch Gebauter Umwelt, issue title: ‘Community Design. Involvement and Architecture in the US since 1963: Texts’, no. 20 (September 2008): 22-25.
  • ‘Preliminary Research Findings from Fieldwork for the Officina de Casco Antiguo, Panama City, Panama’ 2006
  • ‘Under Construction: Community Based Design/Build Projects in Los Angeles’ in cityworks Los Angeles: Handbook Elizabeth Martin, editor; Forum Press, Los Angeles. 2005
  • ‘Community Building, by Design’ with Robin Hughes; in Enterprise Quarterly, 2003

CV + Files + Links

PDF icon CV

photo of Peter Aeschbacher's work
photo of Peter Aeschbacher's work
photo of Peter Aeschbacher's work
photo of Peter Aeschbacher's work
photo of Peter Aeschbacher's work
photo of Peter Aeschbacher's work