Classes here at UPenn started this week.
Tuesday was the last day of orientation. It started out at 9:00am with a coffee/breakfast gathering of all of the new PennDesign students in the basement of Meyerson. Then at 10:00am each of the departments split off for their own departmental welcome. The PhD and MS students met with David Leatherbarrow in a seminar room in the Fisher Fine Arts Library (designed by Frank Furness in 1890).
Including myself, there are 3 new PhD students and 4 new MS students. David started out by giving us a brief history of the program. It is the oldest (or one of the oldest, depending on who you ask) architecture PhD program in the country. He encouraged us to look beyond the boundaries of our program and to take advantage of all of the resources that are available to us across the university and the city. He also mentioned that there are several openings for TA and RA positions. Normally, he wouldn't ask us first years to get fill any of the slots, but apparently more people graduated from the program than usual last year so they need some extra help. It looks like I'm going to fill one of the RA slots, but it's not official yet.
Wednesday was the first official day of classes. I didn't actually have any classes, but I did go to campus to attend the presentation of elective options. You can see the list of course descriptions here
Thursday was my first time being in a classroom as a student in five years. After practicing professionally for the past five years, and acting as a guest critic and guest lecturer, it was a bit of a surreal experience to be back on the other side of the classroom. The class was Concepts and Theories of Contemporary Landscape Architecture with Anita Berrizbeitia. I'm really looking forward to this class as it covers a lot of the issues that I've been thinking about informally over the past few years. According to the syllabus the pedagogic objectives of the class are, "1) To probe into the broader cultural meanings inherent in the major transformations in landscape discourse that emerged three decades ago, by examining the social, political, technical, and theoretical contexts of certain works, 2) To explore how exterior cultural pressures become embedded in the formal and spatial characteristics of landscapes, and how they in turn contribute to a larger understanding of postmodern culture, 3) To explore the relevance of the events of the last thirty years in contemporary landscape practice.
The course is a 700-level landscape architecture course, but it is also cross-listed with a 400-level architecture course. As a result, the assignments are a little different for the grad and undergrad students. The undergrads will spend the semester researching and analyzing one project from a list of sixteen. The grad students will spend the semester researching and analyzing the work of one designer from a list of fifteen. The undergrads' analysis will closely follow the lectures, while the grads' will be expected to do more of a comparative analysis of their selected designer's work throughout their career. Below is the list of designers for the grad students to choose from:
1) Roberto Burle Marx, 2) Alexandre Chemetoff, 3) James Corner/Field Operations, 4) Michel Desvigne, 5) Ian Hamilton Finlay, 6) Kathryn Gustafson, 7) Adriaan Geuze/West 8, 8) Richard Haag, 9) Lawrence Halprin, 10) George Hargreaves, 11) Peter Latz, 12) Laurie Olin, 13) Martha Schwartz, 14) Michael Van Valkenburgh, and 15) Peter Walker.
I will probably go with Adriaan Geuze/West 8 since I've alway been interested in their work, but I may decide to study someone that I'm less familiar with. I have until next Thursday to decide, so we'll see.
Anyways, that pretty much covers my first week back to school. Things will really get going on Tuesday when my other three courses kick off.
I was able to snag the syllabi to a few of the architecture and landscape architecture studio courses, so I'll post a brief description of those studios later this weekend.