course vignettes                               link to courses taught

Lot vacancy, housing dereliction, and disinvestment in public infrastructure and environmental quality are outward signs of deep-seated, complex problems plaguing inner-city Pittsburgh. On the other hand, every neighborhood we work with is endowed with ample amenities and rich histories. Community leaders and residents possess great resilience and resolve, and generously share their creative insight on possibilities for regeneration.

Residents and students interact during a Fall '08 charrette in Beltzhoover.

On site in Larimer, where crumbling infrastructure and gestures of community aspiration co-mingle.

 The post-industrial 'shrinking city' disproportionately impacts low-income neighborhoods. Here are student studies
of The Hill District and Beltzhoover exploring scenarios for vacant lot recycling, recovered civic space, and green networks.

Australian exchange student J. Lock brainstorms with charrette participants on ideas for
Hazelwood's core area and new library / community center site.

Kingsley Association director Malik Bankston orients students to neighborhood regeneration possibilities in Larimer.

Re-establishing the local green grocer; concept by R. Fellenbaum.

 Beltzhoover urban farm and cafe complex; concept and logo by K. Snyder.

L. Grosso's concept for a redeveloped park in Hazelwood's little community of Riverside, Fall 2013.

A. Madl's concept for regneration of the post-industrial "Salt Pile" site along Hazelwood's Monongahela riverfront,
Fall 2013.
ASLA PA/Del 2013 Award of Honor winner.

Students engage Coraopolis residents in tracing possibilities for their proposed
pedal-paddle network along the Ohio River valley.

The Pittsburgh Studio
Regenerative Design with the Recovering Community
LArch 414  Depth Studio
(advanced BLA/MLA)


The Penn State Center, Pittsburgh

Since 2008, my Pittsburgh Studio has worked with stakeholders and residents in low income inner-city and post-industrial neighborhoods of Beltzhoover, Larimer, the Hill District, Homewood South, West Pittsburgh, Coraopolis, The Northside neighborhoods of Manchester, East Deutschtown and California-Kirkbride, and Wilkinsburg, Hazelwood and several others.  With the generous support of the Penn State Center, we've collaborated with local stakeholders on ideas for sustainability, place-based livelihood opportunities, and renewed civic conviviality.

Studio Recognitions:

National Finalist (1 of 4), Peter C. Magrath University-Community Engagement Award, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, 2011.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation Engagement Award, Northeast Region, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, 2011.

Community Engagement and Scholarship Award, Penn State University, 2011.

President's Freshman Welcome, 2013-15

since 2008, a slew of Student Honor and Merit Awards at the ASLA PA/Del level and at Penn State's Unvergraduate Research Exhibit.

Partners to date:  

Kingsley Association | The Hill House | Beltzhoover Neighborhood Council | Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority | Pittsburgh City Planning | Coraopolis Community Development Corporation | The Meter Room | Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation | Wilkinsburg FUSE | Rosedale Block Cluster | Northside Leadership Conference | Brightwood Civic Group | The Hazelwood Initiative | Center of Life | City of Pittsburgh Planning | City of Pittsburgh Urban Redevt. Authority | The Heinz Endowments | GTech Strategies | The Buhl Foundation | Community Association of East Deutschtown
Larimer Consensus Group | Larimer Green Team | The Heinz Endowments |

65 residents showed up at our final
Fall 2009 open house in Beltzhoover.

Participants listen to research reports at the start of mid-semester charrettes, Hazelwood, 2013

Reporting back to Hazelwood Studio
local partners, Fall 2013


Prep work for riparian restoration along Slab Cabin Run, Focht Farm.
plan by K. Tamminga

 Overhead power lines and invasive reed canary grass influenced our choice
to go with a robust mix of native wetland and riparian shrub species.

After consecutive weekends in the field, we were a well oiled restoration crew.
Riparian Ecological Restoration   
LArch 497c / HORT 497c
(vertical BLA/MLA  /  cross-college)
co-taught with Louise Comas

sponsors: ClearWater Conservancy

Chesapeake Bay Small Watersheds Program

This was a cross-college field and seminar course in applied restoration ecology, concentrating on design, techniques, and  implementation practices to improve functional stream buffers and floodways that have been degraded and inundated by several invasive plant species.

Following livestock exclosure, we planted native streamside vegetation along a 200 m stretch of Slab Cabin Run that runs through the Focht Farm. Student groups also prepared riparian restoration strategies for a downstream reach of Slab Cabin Run and a denuded section of Spring Creek in Bellefonte, PA.

For a good cause, students fearlessly cross
the rickety footbridge over Slab Cabin Run.


Students look for artifacts of prehistoric occupation along Slab Cabin Run.

Soil science professor Rick Stehouwer and graduate student Ashlee Dere
discuss a soil pit at Penn State's Larson Agricultural Research Farm.

Field categorization of potential lithic (chipped stone) artifacts near Musser Gap.

Rick Stehouwer demonstrates use of a probe to examine hydric soils in Whipple Dam State Park.

Andy Cole instructs students on the flora of the lower slopes of Tussey ridge.

 Fragrant wild azaleas (Pinxterflowers) grace Bald Eagle ridge on the Bonta family preserve.
Ridge & Valley in the Field

LArch 272
(2nd year BLA)
co-taught with Tom Yahner

This is a post-Spring semester field course, augmented with lead-in assignments. It
serves as a prelude to the Fall semester Landscape Systems studio.

Over four days we explore local Ridge-and-Valley geology, physiography, hydrology, and soils as layered themes that set the context for rather predictable plant communities. We conduct  various field investigations and soils tests, learn to identify native and invasive plant species, and draw connections to cultural landscape change through time. 

Sorting artifacts from stones, under the
direction of Prof. Tim Murrtha.

Keying out forbs using Newcomb's Guide.

Students traverse Laurel Run after exploring an adjacent wetland complex.

 A Munsell's color chart comes in handy when delineating wetland soils.

Author and naturalist Marcia Bonta
reveals spring ephemeral wildflowers
at the Bonta family's Plummer Hollow
preserve near Tyrone, PA.

Quiet time for field notes.


Landscape Systems Studio

LArch 311
intermediate BLA
team taught

A core studio that focuses on landscape-level patterns and processes. Relationships between sites and regional systems are considered using GIS as a primary tool. Natural and cultural histories, socio-economics and demography, landscape experience and other factors are explored, community goals are identified, and interventions at site and landscape level are recommended.

a.  CD set cover of the 2004 studio

b.  Mount Nittany studio, on site

c.  end-of-semester public open house

d.  peer critique

e.  kayaking during the Susquehanna North
    Branch Riverway Study

f.  colleague Tim Murtha and students use    
    the plasma screen to model Mt. Nittany

 my colleagues looking for jasper, a sign
    of early human occupation

Exploring a pioneer cemetery, surrounded bynew suburbs at the base of Mt. Nittany.

Mt. Nittany Conservancy
stakeholder in the studio.

Ecological Restoration & Design Studio   

LArch 453 (now 414)
(vertical BLA / MLA)

co-taught with Andy Cole

An advanced vertical studio in applied restoration ecology and ecological design. Students from design and life science backgrounds have worked with community organizations and  conservation groups on stressed urban landscapes, brownfields, wetlands, stream corridors, and other sites.

a. examining hydric soils at the
    Potter wetland

b. Center for Watershed Stewardship MLA
    student demonstrating macroinvertebrate
    sampling techniques

c. Potter farmstead, showing degraded
    stream corridor to be restored

d. and e.  Elks Country Club riparian  project
    site, and presentation of restoration

Mr. Potter,
farmland preservation and
restoration enthusiast.

Spotted newt in eft stage
found on site.


Planting Studio

LArch 332
(intermediate BLA/MLA)

A planting design and methods hybrid studio that culminates in a refined set of contract documents of planted soft and hardscapes. Planting types include mixed beds, meadow, rain garden, woodland, and urban treed plaza.

a. tiger swallowtail

b. container seedlings from Octoraro Nurseries

c. balled and burlapped tree

d. student sketching during field trip
to Longwood Gardens

LArch 332 contract document set excerpts:
- mixed bed, A. Caruso
- detail, treed plaza, E. Hahn
- mixed meadow, E. Hahn
- treed plaza plan, Y. Wu


Landscape Film Seminar   
LArch 424 / 497
(advanced BLA / MLA / SALA)

A Fall semester seminar on film as a medium for expressing ideas and issues in landscape architecture.

Students make documentary short films addressing a landscape- or place-based theme. We also critique film with landscape content. Filmography to date includes over 40 films and video shorts from 8 countries.

The semester concludes with a film festival. All activities take place in the Immersive Environments Lab of the Stuckeman Family building.



Tensions of Change
Graduate Seminar

LArch 510 / Engl 597  
joint cross-college seminar
co-taught with Bob Burkholder sponsor: Institute for Arts and Humanities

An advanced, interdisciplinary  MLA-MFA seminar that examined themes of writing and making the region, landscape and place. Guests included Anne Whiston Spirn, David Orr, John Elder, John Tallmadge, Ken Lamberton, Marcia Bonta, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Evan Eisenberg, Stacy Levy and others.

a. guest speaker Anne Spirn exploring the
    atmosphere of Tussey Mountain

b. Alison Hawthorne Deming reads from
    Science and Other Poems as part of the
    Tensions of Change speaker symposium

c.  John Elder discusses his book Reading
    the Mountains of Home

d.  David Orr fields questions at Shaver's
     Creek Environmental Center

e.  seminar-in-the-field, this time at Marcia
    Bonta's Plummer Hollow nature preserve

visiting scholar Anne Spirn interacts
with English and MLA students

photos by Ken Tamminga, Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0