Pittsburgh Studio wins 2011 Community Engagement and Scholarship Award

University Park, Pa. -- The Pittsburgh Studio, a joint initiative that aims to instigate change within Pittsburgh's economically depressed areas while simultaneously giving Penn State's landscape architecture students real-world design experience has received the 2011 Penn State Award for Community Engagement and Scholarship.

The award recognizes a project that best exemplifies Penn State as an "engaged institution," which the Kellogg Commission defines as an institution that has redesigned teaching, research and extension and service functions to become even more sympathetically and productively involved with its communities.

Ken Tamminga, Penn State professor of landscape architecture, and Deno De Ciantis, director of the Penn State Center–Engaging Pittsburgh, are leaders of the initiative.

The 12-hour per week, 5-credit Pittsburgh Studio is part of the required capstone sequence of the accredited five-year professional landscape architecture program at Penn State and is intended to help students transition into professionals. So far, approximately a dozen students per year have enrolled in the Pittsburgh Studio and, thus, have had the opportunity to work with community stakeholders to develop sustainable design solutions for local urban communities and some of the problems they face, like vacant lots, deteriorated green spaces and storm water issues.

The students meet with community members to identify their desires and needs. They then generate ideas for improving the community that focus on re-greening and sustainable place-making, on transforming vacant lots and other open green spaces into community gardens, rain gardens and amphitheaters; on repurposing vacant buildings as greenhouses and community centers; and on reclaiming underutilized spaces, such as civic places and skate parks. In their final design presentations, students offer the community a cache of concepts that are intended to catalyze environmental, social and economic regeneration.

The Studio was supported by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, Cooperative Extension and Outreach and the Department of Landscape Architecture in the College of Arts and Architecture.

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Last Updated April 29, 2013