Community-Focused Design

Landscape Architecture at UW–Madison has a long tradition of working in close partnership with communities facing changes in the landscape. In the Community-Focused Design Program, our focus is on the planning, design, and management of public spaces in order to promote food security and public and environmental health. Work in community design seeks to improve quality of life while increasing community capacity to shape collective futures.

Our approach to community design and community design research is based on developing, evaluating, and documenting design processes that are inclusive, participatory, and responsive to the combination of natural and cultural resources, social and economic issues, and agents of change unique to each community. We are interested in uncovering the processes that increase participation and shared decision-making, and on building a shared design vocabulary reflecting community values related to their relationship to the built and natural environment. This approach is informed by the idea of place-making as an outcome of critical/reflective practice that investigates issues of social justice and environmental sustainability.

Students interested in the Community-Focused Design Program pursue research with a focus on food security, and public and environmental health. This specialization prepares you for careers that: build participatory design into professional practice and community organizing, lead nonprofit organizations in participatory community design at the neighborhood, city, watershed, or bioregional scales; or engage research to evaluate the social and environmental results of participatory design and planning processes.

The Community-Focused Design concentration is particularly appropriate for students holding accredited degrees in Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Planning or Urban Design who want to develop a specialization in community design.

The program is also open to students from any field.

Courses for this Program:

GEO 377: Introduction to Geographic Information Systems

LA 361: Wetlands Ecology

LA 695: Applications of Geographic Information Systems in Natural Resources

LA 621: Designing Healthy Communities

Some examples of recent work include:

  • Understanding the capacity to grow community gardens within the Madison urban area
  • Investigating tree canopy origins and development with city development
  • Investigating changes in tree canopy diversity with time in the Madison urban area
  • Investigating the performance of rain gardens on an urban college campus
  • Understanding the benefits of a healing garden within the grounds of an urban health care facility
  • A design of a greenway/public pathway that provides a natural east-west connection within a community, and provides play nodes constructed of all natural materials