The fields of urban and regional planning and landscape architecture are renewing a strong disciplinary alignment around common interests in land use, community food systems, public health and welfare, social justice, environmental protection and restoration, community and economic development, and their intersections with growth, development, and spatial and social change. Both professions emphasize sustainability and resilience of social and biophysical systems at multiple scales. Both engage governmental officials, non-profit organizations, private industry, and citizens in planning, design, policy, development, and implementation projects at site-specific neighborhood, municipal, regional, state, national, and even international levels.
The academic foundations for both disciplines draw upon and integrate the social sciences, biological/physical sciences, humanities, and the arts for applied research and practice. As the global population grows along with the resulting complexity of issues involving society and the environment, the planning and design of sustainable, healthy and equitable communities only increases in importance.
In PLA, these fields return to their early origins of public health, welfare, and ecological improvement by integrating planning, design, community development, and public policy around the disparate needs of people in urban, suburban, exurban, and rural areas. Our department strives to be a champion for and leader in health and human well-being while conserving, restoring, and protecting our natural environment in the face of global change.
What We Do
Urban and Regional Planning
Creating great communities for all by managing land use, urban design, transportation, housing, and economic development.
Engaging the language of outdoor spaces - be that through designing the built and natural environment or ecological restoration.
We have a handful of research labs and many outreach partnerships where innovation takes place.
Wisconsin Idea in Action
Our department collaborates heavily with communities all over the state, the nation, and the world.
What we stand for
We are a dynamic network of scholars and stakeholders working to advance healthy, prosperous, equitable and sustainable built and natural environments in the tradition of the Wisconsin Idea and from the local to the global scale.
Our scholarship and educational activities will advance sustainable and livable communities, cities, and regions that are vibrant, thriving, and resilient. We do this through integrative teaching, research, and public engagement that seeks solutions to serve human needs and protect the integrity of natural environments. The department, based upon the disciplines of landscape architecture and urban and regional planning, provides opportunities to explore interdisciplinary research, design, planning, and policy analysis at local, regional, and global scales.
The new department is committed to establishing and maintaining a supportive climate of inclusion, diversity, and collegiality among our interactions and through our actions and policies. We envision a department in which all individuals are engaged in a vibrant learning community, where ideas, experiences, and perspectives are supported, nurtured, and developed to their highest levels. Attitudes, behaviors, and standards within our community will demonstrate inclusion and respect for individual needs, abilities, and potential.
Why You should be here too
Our Commitment to you
The Faculty, Staff, and Students of the Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture are committed to:
- Value and respect all members of our community, faculty, staff, and undergraduate and graduate students.
- Maintain a diverse, inclusive, vibrant, stimulating, welcoming, and excellent academic experience and work environment.
- Prevent identity-based discrimination in the department. [What is identity-based discrimination and misconduct? Please see definitions here or the FAQ here.]
- Prevent identity-based misconduct in the department.
- Support survivors of identity-based misconduct.
- Support student organizations and student initiatives.
- Be aware of students’ needs and concerns and address concerns that come to our attention.
- Create a department environment that models mutual respect, safety, and accountability.
- Hear and honor the input we receive through the climate surveys and other sources of input.
- Actively seek and encourage student, staff and faculty input in department decision making.
- Demonstrate commitment to diversity and inclusion through our decisions and actions.
- Communicate with all members of the department about changes, actions, and progress towards achieving our goals.
We will continue to monitor, evaluate, and take steps to improve our everyday interactions, classroom instruction, delivery of academic and research programs, and professional development activities.
Where we've been
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A Union for the Ages
On July 1, 2017, the UW–Madison Departments of Urban and Regional Planning (URPL) and Landscape Architecture (LA) combined to create a new UW–Madison Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture (PLA) to be housed in the College of Letters and Science.
This new department strengthens and enhances planning and design for sustainable and resilient communities and environments. PLA supports accredited academic programs in Landscape Architecture (BSLA) and Urban and Regional Planning (MS URPL), as well as a PhD degree (PhD URPL), an MSLA degree, and a non-accredited undergraduate major.
Applying research, teaching, and service to challenges associated with built environments, their spatial and social contexts and sensitive integration with the natural environment closely supports UW–Madison’s mission and the Wisconsin Idea. PLA brings together dispersed resources to generate new knowledge and provide academic programs around urban and regional sustainability to improve the livability, economic vitality, and health of communities and their surrounding natural environments.
Internationally, and across the United States, the fields of urban and regional planning and landscape architecture are renewing a strong disciplinary alignment around common interests in land use, community food systems, public health and welfare, social justice, environmental protection and restoration, community and economic development, and their intersections with growth, development, and spatial and social change. Broadly, urban and regional planning engages public and private actors in joint issue identification, analysis, and problem solving applied in “systemic, creative way(s) to influence the future of neighborhoods, cities, rural and metropolitan areas….” Landscape architecture is a multi-disciplinary field, also involved with problem-solving, with a focus on finding sustainable solutions to complex problems that address conservation, ecosystem services, green infrastructure, public health, climate change, resilience and low impact policy and design practices in small towns, cities, and metropolitan regions.
While clearly relevant to Wisconsin, these are global issues as well. The World Bank estimates that by 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas. As urban areas expand, threats to natural environments—their flora and fauna and the ecosystem services they provide—also grow, and more isolated rural communities, often in agricultural and natural landscapes, wrestle with increasing challenges to economic development, provision of health services, and connection to global communications networks. As the global population grows along with the resulting complexity of issues involving society and the environment, the planning and design of sustainable, healthy and equitable communities only increases in importance.
Both professions emphasize sustainability and resilience of social and biophysical systems at multiple scales. Both engage governmental officials, non-profit organizations, private industry, and citizens in planning, design, policy, development, and implementation projects at site-specific, neighborhood, municipal, regional, state, national, and even international levels. The academic foundations for both disciplines draw upon and integrate the social sciences, biological/physical sciences, humanities, and the arts for applied research and practice.
Background on Planning
URPL has a long and distinguished tradition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Courses in City Planning were first offered on campus as early as 1911, and since its official inception as a department in 1962, the Department has served as the training ground for 1,113 Master’s (MS) and 62 Doctoral (PhD) graduates. URPL alumni are found throughout the world working as leaders of organizations and communities at multiple scales and supporting sound decision-making for the benefit of individuals, their communities, and society as a whole. URPL MS graduates are well prepared for careers in planning and are consistently ranked among the highest pass rates of those who take the field’s professional certification exam offered through the American Institute of Certified Planners.
In addition to strengths in campus research and teaching, the Department’s faculty also provides planning expertise to governmental, professional, and citizen organizations. Typically, these activities include:
- applied research and technical assistance to the network of county-based Cooperative Extension faculty, professional planners, and others in Wisconsin;
- continuing education of professionals and citizens in Wisconsin and beyond on critical planning issues;
- collaborations with agencies from the local to the international level on planning-related issues, including public policy education;
- practicum courses that engage service-learning and community-based research.
UW-Extension linkages have long been a hallmark of URPL’s applied research and service to Wisconsin, and five of the URPL faculty have formal integrated appointments with UW Cooperative Extension. The most recent PAB accreditation report noted the department’s exceptional strengths in extension, close interactions with planners and policy makers, and the positive benefits and opportunities created for students
Background on Landscape Architecture
Landscape Architecture also has a long history at UW–Madison with the first landscape classes offered at UW–Madison in 1888, and a distinct degree option in Landscape Architecture offered in Horticulture in 1926. Nationally, the department offered the first graduate program focused on landscape architecture research including restoration ecology. The department also held the first Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture Conference focused on research and it initiated Landscape Journal, the first U.S. peer review journal for the discipline. The department places a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches and is known internationally for its work in ecological restoration and management, cultural resource conservation, and human well-being.
Graduation from an accredited program in landscape architecture is required for students seeking to enter the profession with state licensure, and the BSLA is the only accredited landscape architecture professional program in Wisconsin. Since emerging from the Department of Horticulture in 1964, nearly 2,000 students have completed their graduate or undergraduate degrees through UW–Madison’s Department of Landscape Architecture and are working locally to globally in private business, public agencies, nongovernment organizations and academia.
The Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board (LAAB) reviews all professional programs in landscape architecture for re-accreditation every six years. The Department of Landscape Architecture’s BSLA was last reviewed in 2013 and met all standards fully and with strength. The department also completed a campus-level ten-year program review in 2015. That program review report was also very positive and reinforced the strong findings of the 2013 BSLA accreditation team, while also extending those positive comments to its other degree programs and more broadly to faculty productivity.
The department’s graduate students in tracks of conservation planning, restoration ecology and community design for public health find jobs with federal agencies such as NPS, USFS and USFWS; state and public agencies particularly the DNR; national nonprofits such as The Nature Conservancy, and private firms.