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Connecting first-year Larch class with landscape art installation

On Friday, April 24, 2015, a group of third-year landscape architecture students created a rapid installation outside of University Park's Kern building with the specific aim of interrogating the nature of art, landscape, and social interaction. The installation, which pays homage to an earlier garden installation by Martha Schwartz, was organized by landscape architecture instructor Joshua Beblo for his first-year LArch60 course, The History of Design on the Land. Schwartz's work is one of the contemporary landscape designs discussed in the class.

The original garden was designed by Schwartz in 1980 at MIT to celebrate May Day. The design had to: relate symbolically to MIT, cost less than $200, and last for only a day. The design was inspired by the classic French garden where “space is organized by patterning the horizontal planes, by using objects in a serial fashion, and through the use of parallel lines to exaggerate distances.”  

In other designs, Schwartz had used non-traditional materials in landscape spaces. For this garden, she used 36,700 Necco wafers manufactured by the New England Confectionary Co. (NECCO) and placed them in a 170’ x 100’ grid oriented with the buildings of MIT on the Great Court. The candy and its colors represented the “simple pleasures of childhood and the joy that accompanies the first signs of spring.” A second grid of tires that had been painted the colors of the candy was oriented along the street gridlines of the larger landscape context of Back Bay Boston.

While not as extensive, the garden on campus was installed to connect the LArch 60 classroom instruction to an authentic example in outdoor space and to initiate a discussion about whether the landscape was art or landscape or something else. This installation used 1,830 Necco Wafers arranged on a grid that is 15’ x 15’ and oriented towards Old Main. 

Be sure to join the conversation on Twitter at #PSUlarch60

University Park Campus Design History Lecture, April 29, 2015

To learn more about LArch 60 and landscape architecture, attend the lecture that will present many of the concepts introduced in class as they are applied to the Penn State Campus. Join us next Wednesday April 29 at 7:00 p.m. in the first-floor Jury Space of the Stuckeman Family Building to learn about the design history of the University Park Campus. This lecture is free and open to the public.

To learn more about Martha Schwartz Partners’ current projects, please visit their website:

Three Necco candy wafers with imprints: #PSUlarch60, Is it Art? Landscape?, and
Necco wafer grid installation on grass and walkway
Students working on landscape installation
Students looking at Necco wafer grid installation on grass and walkway
Students gathered around Necco wafer grid installation on grass and walkway
Grid-based installation of colored tires on lawn in front of large university building.
Overhead view of grid-based installation of colored tires on university lawn