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Penn State University

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Department of Landscape Architecture

Courses

LARCH 60 | History of Landscape Architecture

Course Description:
LARCH 060 is an introductory survey course of the historical development of designed outdoor space in relationship to the allied arts from early beginnings to present day. Although the profession of architecture was not named until 1858, with the award-winning design of Central Park by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the art of design on the land has been practiced since the beginning of time. It is the creation of human environments, inevitably expressing the creator's perception of the relationship between humanity and nature. The objective of this course is to present a concise analysis of the design of outdoor space with special emphasis on American design from 1800 to date. It is hoped that students will gain an increased awareness of landscape architecture as an art, and of their own built environment as a product of cultural values.

LARCH 065 | Built Environment and Culture

Course Description:
This course investigates the relationship between socio-cultural practices and the development and organization of contemporary built environments. This interdisciplinary course is based on the premise that space is an active structuring element of human experience. Using theoretical orientations from landscape architecture, architecture, urban planning, geography, sociology, and cultural anthropology this course will investigate how social structures are spatially embedded in contemporary built environments. It will do so by examining environments at three scales (house, street, and city) in different parts of the world. It will explore both western and non-western environments with emphasis on environments that students are likely to be unfamiliar with. Within each scale and region it will focus on the spatial experience of different groups based on racial, ethnic, gender, class, and other identities.

LARCH 112 | Introductory Design Studio

Course Description:
This is the student's first studio-based design course. This course provides an introduction to landscape design. Students will create studio work that investigates, from a variety of disciplinary understandings, basic issues and problems in the arts and design disciplines. Ways of learning about design through projects and assignments that incorporate various technologies will be included in the course. The course will integrate a variety of methodologies and approaches rather than teach discipline-specific subject matter.

LARCH 121S | Landscape Architecture Orientation Seminar

Course Description:
This is a seminar course, the first of many in an entering student's Penn State career. Seminar classes offer the opportunity to read, think, share ideas through informal discussion, and refine personal thoughts reflection. The seminar is a common and useful tool to explore important ideas and develop critical thinking skills. Our program's design and theory sequence begins with the freshman seminar, LARCH 121S, which introduces students to landscape architecture issues. In this seminar students read and discuss the challenges and opportunities faced by contemporary landscape architects.

LARCH 151 | Introduction to Design Visualization

Course Description:
Provides students with an introduction to visualization techniques for landscape architectural design and planning. The complexity and scale of most design projects and the collaborative nature of design work necessitate the use of graphic images to develop and communicate design ideas from the very early conceptual stage to the final construction documents. These "design drawings" are an integral part of the problem solving and design process. They require a good eye, a creative imagination and a skilled hand.

LARCH 211 | Design and Theory I: Introduction to Principles of Landscape ArchitecturalDesign

Course Description:
LARCH 211 is the first of a four-class sequence of design studios at the core of Penn State's professional design program. The design studio is an active learning setting where principles discovered in lecture or seminar classes are subject to experiments in the form of design projects. In this studio class setting solutions to complex problems are synthesized and tested, based on information gathered in earlier and concurrent classes. Landscape architectural principles and issues are introduced through design explorations and projects, associated lectures and field trips, and corollary readings and reading discussions - the latter developed through the companion seminar, LARCH 221. As the curriculum progresses, the principles introduced (or expanded upon) become increasingly complex and build upon prior studio content.

LARCH 212 | Design and Theory II: Introduction to Issues of Place

Course Description:
LARCH 212 is second of a four-class sequence of design studios at the core of the professional design program. The course follows LARCH 211 and continues to develop the fundamental concepts and basic skills of landscape architectural design. The particular emphasis of this class is on introduction to site analysis encompassing both natural and cultural elements of place. The studio project types are small to moderate in scale and have basic programs. In many cases, second-year site design projects include community projects (i.e. parks) with real human issues and sites. Group discussions and critiques will be important activities in the studio.

LARCH 231 | Introduction to Design Implementation

Course Description:
This course is an introduction of basic principles and tools supporting landform data, site systems, grading, visualization representation and site circulation. As an introductory design implementation course, this course provides the foundation for site design in landscape architecture. At the core of the course are four general bodies of knowledge: Geometrics, Landform Manipulation, Site Systems, and Computer Applications for Site Analysis and Design.

LARCH 241 | Vegetation Ecology and Landscape Design

Course Description:
Application of ecological knowledge to landscape design and management; emphasis on the use of plant communities in contemporary design. Landscape architecture is so thoroughly in and of the environment that ecological concerns permeate every corner of practice. Students encounter ecological concepts throughout the curriculum, in the context of social and cultural systems and ecologies as well as the more familiar natural system ecology. The curriculum's entry-point to considering ecology as a fundamental shaper of design and planning is LARCH 241, Vegetation Ecology and Landscape Design, which introduces students to the application of ecological knowledge in landscape design and management with an emphasis on the use of plant communities in contemporary design. The course focuses on basic ecological principles and concepts at two general scales - the small-scale site and the larger, regional-scale landscape. The course presents the principles of ecology as applied to a range of site and landscape-level environments. Key concepts explored in the class include: population, community, ecosystem and landscape. Students will learn the characteristics of healthy ecosystems and will also review the adverse impacts that can result from failure to apply sound ecological principles in design and planning. The principles learned in this class provide the foundation for later explorations that include responses to overlying patterns of human land use and development.

LARCH 272 | Landscape Architecture Field Trip

Course Description:
LArch 272 Ridge & Valley Ecology in the Field explores, through preparatory study and 4 days of field activities, the intrinsic links between physiography, biophysical processes, vegetation communities, and human agency through time. The hands-on course involves multiple modes of coming to know local landscapes and ecosystems in their contexts, from scientific to experiential to tactile. It stresses interconnected landscape systems learning -- something all landscape architects should pursue as they design, plan and manage the landscapes of their region. We will visit sites in select locations across our local Ridge & Valley physiographic province and the adjacent Allegheny Front. There will be an emphasis on plant communities as expressions of soils and biophysical processes, as well as human management and misuse.

LARCH 311 | Design and Theory III: Landscape Systems

Course Description:
This course is the last in the design implementation sequence. It is an introduction to landscape construction materials and their use in design; includes principles and techniques for detailed design of site elements. The landscape architect calls upon a rich array of materials to construct the built elements of landscape—walls, ground surfaces, overhead structures and furniture systems. The functional success and durability of many historical and traditional construction methods is based on a learned appreciation of the qualities and behaviors of materials in use in the landscape. Students develop understanding of the fundamental structural qualities of materials and use that knowledge to devise and illustrate their own design details. The same understanding of material behaviors will be used to investigate the qualities of novel construction materials, and will guide the development of construction details that respond to new constraints and opportunities.

LARCH 312 | Design and Theory IV: Site and Regional Planning

Course Description:
In the spring semester of the third year, LARCH 312 and 322 continue the students' progress in working with regional contextual factors, but with an emphasis on site design at a variety of scales. Project types include a progression from small- through large-scale design with increasingly complex programs, human issues, and ecological parameters. Implementation is strongly integrated into this site-design context. This class constitutes a capstone to the professional core of the curriculum and accomplishes the first comprehensive integration of the student's technical and communication skills, their ecological and socio-cultural knowledge, and their developing skills as designers. LARCH 312 directly references the understanding of the regional context from the preceding LARCH 311 to take students into community master planning issues. An introduction to those issues and the issues of sprawl and landscape history then allows a transition to community form and housing-type topics. In this class, students gain an understanding of designing communities and everyday human habitat - at several scales, including the interrelationships of natural, cultural and economic factors on the past, present and future development of communities.

LARCH 321 | Design Theory Seminar

Course Description:
LARCH 321 is the companion seminar to the design studio LARCH 311. The seminar is a small group setting where directed readings, independent research and reflection are employed to explore the context of contemporary design. Topics in LARCH 321 reflect the projects being explored in the companion studio. During the third year, theory references build upon the second-year experiences and expand to broader regional investigations. The fall semester (LARCH 311 and 321) covers regional context as a preamble to large-scale master planning in land-use issues. In the seminar, students read broadly about the genesis of regional context as a construct of cultural, as well as biophysical influences. The concept of ""reading"" the landscape is fully explored, introducing students to the clues and cues by which the origins of the existing landscape can be discerned.

LARCH 322 | Design Theory Seminar

Course Description:
LARCH 322 is the companion seminar to the design studio LARCH 312. The seminar is a small group setting where directed readings, independent research and reflection are employed to explore the context of contemporary design. Topics in LARCH 322 reflect the projects being explored in the companion studio. During the third year, theory references build upon the second-year experiences and expand to broader regional investigations. The spring semester (LARCH 312 and 322) covers site design issues within a regional context. In the seminar, students gain an understanding of communities and the complex of values that shape them, including the interrelationships of natural, cultural and economic factors on the future development of communities. Habitat management, watershed management, real-estate values, zoning and planning ordinances, individual and community rights are topics of discussions in this seminar.

LARCH 331 | Landscape Architectural Design Implementation III

Course Description:
This course is the last in the design implementation sequence. It is an introduction to landscape construction materials and their use in design; includes principles and techniques for detailed design of site elements. The landscape architect calls upon a rich array of materials to construct the built elements of landscape—walls, ground surfaces, overhead structures and furniture systems. The functional success and durability of many historical and traditional construction methods is based on a learned appreciation of the qualities and behaviors of materials in use in the landscape. Students develop understanding of the fundamental structural qualities of materials and use that knowledge to devise and illustrate their own design details. The same understanding of material behaviors will be used to investigate the qualities of novel construction materials, and will guide the development of construction details that respond to new constraints and opportunities.

LARCH 332 | Landscape Architectural Design Implementation II

Course Description:
Plants and planting design are critical elements of the education of a landscape architect. LARCH 332 is designed to develop students’ appreciation of plants in the landscape while advancing knowledge and skills in planting design, techniques, and documentation as a distinct-but-integral part of the landscape development and stewardship process. The focus of the course on both plant association and individual species will continue to consider the landscape architect’s palette, as well as the realities that sustain life on and around a landscape site. The class constitutes the third part of a sequence of LARCH 241, 341 and 332 that provides a comprehensive introduction to plants in their role within the ecosystem, as naturally occurring and interdependent plant communities, and in this third class as the representation of deliberate design decisions that seek to achieve the integrity of the natural systems that inspire them.

LARCH 341 | Plants, People and Place: Plants in Landscape Architectural Design

Course Description:
LARCH 341 is concerned with the key roles of plants and plant communities in the design, planning and management of the land. Students study the ecology and dynamics of native communities including plant geography, plant/soil/water relationships, plant community succession, forest ecosystem dynamics, plant/wildlife relationships, invasive non-native plants, and landscape restoration. Another focus of the course, bearing upon the role of plants in creating place, will be to study the cultural history and human ecology of the use of native and non-native plants. The course will also address the management and protection of sensitive native plant communities, the value of plants in the management of storm-water and the protection of soil resources, and the critical role of plants in sustainable design.

LARCH 361W | Historic Issues in Landscape Architecture

Course Description:
LARCH 361W, Historical Issues in Landscape Architecture, is a writing-intensive course that enables a more thorough investigation of historic issues as they relate to design. The dual goal of this course is to introduce students to a variety of ways that landscape architects address and use history in their work, and to develop their skills in verbally communicating ideas on this subject through presentations, reports, and proposals. The course is devoted to a wide range of relevant issues and topics confronting the profession and discipline of landscape architecture in the 21st century. It investigates the modern designed landscape as a distinct mode of cultural production—with its own materials, medium, codes, ethics, and concerns—in the context of landscape architectural theory’s interconnection to evolving societal constructions of nature, social issues, environmentalism, and the city. It begins with the emergency of a modern sensibility about landscape in the late 13th century and trade developments through modernism postmodernism, and into post modernism. Information dissemination will be by lectures and student explorations through short papers.

LARCH 382 | Professional Practice

Course Description:
LARCH 382 has a three-part role. It comprises an introduction to the variety of practice opportunities in landscape architecture, their opportunities and drawbacks; it provides an introduction to critical office management practices; and it assists students in the employment application process through coaching on interview technique and guidance on the preparation of supporting material. It is the overarching intent of this course to help students understand what it will mean to be a professional practicing in the new millennium and in a constantly changing marketplace of ideas. Topics covered include ethics, public relations, office and project-related practices, personal and professional development, and legal aspects of practice: contracts, specifications, liability insurance. Through active participation in the course, students will come to realize the diversity inherent in the profession.

LARCH 414 | Design and Theory V: Advanced Landscape Architectural Design

Course Description:
Fourth- and fifth-year design studios are designated ""depth"" studios. Each studio is aligned with one of the department’s associated research centers or pursues special topical content and continues the development of site-scale planning and design skills for landscape architecture students with larger and more complex sites and programs Students select a topic from the range of options. Students may choose to take a given topic on a maximum of two occasions. Topics are related to issues that have been introduced in previous studios and are as varied as possible from studio to studio. This allows students to select a topic of interest to explore with great intensity and detail. The studio alternatives offered each year are based on faculty expertise and student interest, and are chosen by the department head’s review of faculty proposals. To date, studio topics have ranged from historic preservation to recreational landscapes, urban ecology to community planning. The type of project is determined on an individual basis, and will be rigorous and require a high level of depth of thought and a sophisticated product

LARCH 424 | Design Theory Seminar

Course Description:
Unlike the seminars offered during second and third years, LARCH 424 is not tied topically to any particular depth studio. Instead, this seminar provides a vehicle for rigorous and structured exploration of the theoretical and philosophical issues that face landscape architectural designers and planners. The seminar is a small group setting where directed readings, independent research and reflection are employed to explore the context of contemporary design. These seminars, offered to fourth- and fifth-year students, enable professors and students to take their investigations to greater depth. Seminars are offered by different professors each semester and the content is expected to be somewhat aligned with the faculty member’s research and scholarship or pursues special landscape architectural topical content of the faculty’s choosing. Students select seminars from the range of options offered. This allows students to select a topic of interest to explore with great intensity and detail. NOTE: only one 424 (3 cr.) is needed to graduate.

LARCH 431 | Landscape Architectural Design Implementation I

Course Description:
The purpose of LARCH 431 is to develop within each student the technical ability to effectively steward land and water resources in the context of land development. For any design to become a reality, the specifics of the design such as the landform—structure relationships, grading and drainage, pedestrian and vehicular circulation, and other site improvements must be resolved. This resolution, which is actually a further refinement of the student’s design, must be technically functional, safe, ecologically responsible, aesthetically pleasing, and true to the design intent. Understanding design implementation standards and technology is an essential part of the design process because it allows students to assure the successful installation of their designs and provides opportunities for them to steward our land, vegetation and water. This knowledge is also critical to future success in professional practice and professional licensure. The two main topics for this class are Grading/Drainage/Stormwater Management, and Layout and Dimensioning / Circulation Systems.

LARCH 499A | Foreign Studies Design Theory Seminar

Course Description:
Foreign Studies Design Theory Seminar comprises inquiry-based reading and discussion of design theory literature relevant to the focus and content of the associated design studio course, LARCH 499B.

LARCH 499B | Design and Theory VI: Contemporary/International Landscape Architectural Design Issues

Course Description:
Study of and design for sites, programs, and social groups associated with ongoing contemporary landscape architectural concerns and related to the foreign study location.

LARCH 499D | Contemporary/International Special Topics

Course Description:
Special topics related to, and study in conjunction with, LARCH 499A and 499B, and related to the foreign study location.