The Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture (PLA) provides a more sustainable foundation for excellence in landscape architecture, urban and regional planning, and the many intersections of these fields. Our department 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.
PLA is home to 17 tenure-track faculty, seven instructional and research academic staff, and five administrative support staff positions. The department has accredited academic programs in Landscape Architecture (BSLA) and Urban and Regional Planning (MS URPL). Integrating two complementary disciplines to create new synergies that engage faculty and students in research and outreach on planning, design, and policy is critical for understanding the natural, cultural, built and developing environments and the interconnections among urban, regional, rural, and native landscapes from large urbanized and rural regions to small, resource and amenity-dependent towns and communities. Additionally, opportunities for students and trans-disciplinary and cross-campus initiatives among faculty and staff are growing. PLA faculty are expanding their existing collaborations and strengths in applied research, teaching, and outreach programs. These substantive areas include housing policy, transportation, land use decisions and management tools, neighborhood resilience and revitalization, ecological restoration, energy, communication technologies, food and water systems, economic development, local government finance, and the impact of planning and design on health and well-being, social justice, sense of community, quality of life, and environmental quality.
PLA is strengthening long-term relationships with UW Cooperative Extension and other statewide partners. Public engagement and extensions are essential to our department and our structure provides efficiencies and coordination in applied research and service learning across our graduate and undergraduate programs. The department provides many opportunities for national and international impact in applied research and student training as well as relevant and important outreach and service to Wisconsin communities.
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.
Mission + Vision
Department Mission: 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.
Department Vision: 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.
Expectations for department inclusion, diversity, and collegiality: 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.
Background + History
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: Department of Urban and Regional Planning (URPL)
The Department of Urban and Regional Planning offers MS and PhD degrees in planning. The MS degree is accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB), which reviews the department for accreditation every 5-7 years. As one of 72 accredited MS planning programs in the United States, URPL has a strong national reputation as a policy-oriented department with emphasis on applied social science research and practice in community and economic development, environmental planning, food systems, housing, land use, rural amenity development and tourism, sustainability, and an emerging emphasis in health and the built environment. Faculty, staff, and student profiles can be found here.
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: Department of Landscape Architecture (LA)
There are 3 degrees in Landscape Architecture at the undergraduate and graduate levels: BSLA, BS major, and a MSLA. As one of the 98 accredited programs of landscape architecture (BSLA) in the United States, the department has a reputation for excellence in areas of design for health and well-being, community development, cultural resource preservation, urban ecology and green infrastructure, restoration ecology, and conservation planning. Faculty, staff, and students regularly engage in applied community research and service projects, both through formal capstone educational requirements and collaborative community initiatives. LA faculty share their expertise in design, conservation, preservation and site planning with governmental, professional, non-governmental, and community- and citizen-based agencies and groups from the local to the international level. LA programs emphasize strong interconnections among the biological and physical sciences, social sciences, the humanities, and the arts. Faculty, staff, and student profiles can be found here.
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.