Eliza Pennypacker appointed head of the Department of Landscape Architecture

Stephanie Swindle
July 21, 2014

Eliza Pennypacker, ASLA, professor of landscape architecture, has been appointed head of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Penn State. Since January 2014, she has served as interim department head.

Pennypacker has taught in the Department of Landscape Architecture at Penn State since 1982 and served as interim associate dean for research (1987), associate director of Penn State's Institute for Arts and Humanities (1989–91), head of the Department of Landscape Architecture (1993–2000), and director of campus planning and design for Penn State (2000–2001).

“I’m very excited,” said Pennypacker, when asked about her new role. “It’s an honor to serve the department at a time that I think is a truly transformative moment for our profession. Landscape architects have never been as in-demand, understood, or respected as we are now. It’s a carpe diem moment for those of us in this field.”

Pennypacker received her bachelor of arts in philosophy from St. John's College (MD) and her master of landscape architecture from The University of Virginia. One of her areas of research is design pedagogy with a focus on strategies that encourage students to sequentially develop awareness, understanding, and ability in design, as well as independent design decision-making strategies.

“I love to teach, and my love of teaching led me, along with Tom Yahner, to explore how design is best taught. Design is a ‘wicked’ problem that requires a thoughtful teaching style; it’s challenging for a teacher to determine how much to guide, how much to lead, and how much to stay out of the way. It’s also challenging for the student. We ask ourselves, ‘What is the best way to prepare a young designer to create designs of value and to design independently without needing to be told what to do by the professor?’ This is the challenge that we find really exciting and that we continue to explore in our design studio and in our research about design pedagogy,” explained Pennypacker.

Another of Pennypacker’s research passions is Artful Rainwater Design (ARD), a term coined by her and colleague Stuart Echols. ARD addresses best management practices for stormwater, treats rainwater as a resource rather than a waste product, and transforms stormwater management systems into amenities through design that celebrates the rain. She and Echols are currently working on a book about ARD with Island Press in Washington, D.C., which is due out in early 2015.

“The thing that excites me most about ARD is that this opens an extremely important opportunity for landscape architects. Engineers can do green infrastructure. However, landscape architects not only solve the sustainable stormwater management problem but also make places where people can experience the beauty and benefits of rain,” said Pennypacker.

Her interest in ARD is grounded in her belief that environmentally responsible landscape design must be valued as an amenity in order to be sustainable. “The amenity aspect is so important; but, with ARD, it goes beyond mere beauty. It’s about activating a place in a way that lets people understand and celebrate rain,” she continued. 

Among other accomplishments, Pennypacker designed, built, and ran an environmentally focused woodland miniature golf course in Gainesville, Georgia, which won a Georgia chapter ASLA design award in 2004 for its ecological sensitivity. She also designed and curated an award-winning, traveling, interpretive exhibition and catalog, Abstracting the Landscape: The Artistry of Landscape Architect A. E. Bye, in collaboration with Kristi Wormhoudt, affiliate assistant professor of art history at Penn State, and collaborated with Penn State faculty members John Lucas and Don Leon (architecture) and the late Veronica Burns Lucas (landscape architecture) to win the national design competition for the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Looking to the future, Pennypacker said, “I’ve been at Penn State for 30 years. I have watched this department grow and change into one that has housed the No. 1 bachelor of landscape architecture program in the country twice in recent years, according to Design Intelligence. Throughout my time here I’ve had many opportunities to go elsewhere, but I wouldn’t even consider it because this department has a combination of commitment to excellence, diversity of expertise, and sense of community that is unparalleled. I am sincerely honored to be here, and to serve again as department head.”

As Stuckeman Chair of Interdisciplinary Design in 2013, Pennypacker hosted a symposium on Artful Rainwater Design. To see all the presentations, which were posted to YouTube, visit youtube.com/user/StuckemanSchool.



  • portrait of Eliza Pennypacker
    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated January 09, 2015