Who We Are

  • The Marcellus Shale region covers a large swath of the northeastern United States, including parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia

We Are Penn State…..Landscape Architecture

Landscape Architecture students are taught to consider the role of the design process in more thoughtful use of the land, and are encouraged to use rule-based design as a means to create scientifically-grounded and meaningful solutions. We explore six questions:

  • How should we describe the landscape?
  • How does the landscape operate?
  • Is the current landscape working well?
  • How will the landscape be altered?
  • What predictable changes might occur?
  • How should the landscape be changed?

The website illustrates possible futures for the landscapes, small communities and farms of northern Pennsylvania, based on examples in the northern tier counties of the state.  Visitors to the website should view these futures as speculations rather than predictions, considering the range of positive and negative impacts, and other subtle changes that may occur.  All of the futures we explore are derived from rule-based design – a strategy of design wherein the method determines the outcome. In rule-based design, design process (a verb) is crucial in achieving the desired design outcome (a noun). We have no client. Our mission is to provide a resource for residents of northern Pennsylvania that illustrates planning and design models for consideration in areas that are already be impacted by shale drilling or may be in the future.

Design of entire regions, especially in this fast-moving scenario, is a high-risk proposition. The health and or happiness of many people may be compromised if uninformed decisions are made about land use.  Economic and environmental impacts may also be felt.  Regional planning is not a linear process. Our strategy consists of a series of steps – steps forward, where we began to understand the many complex issues more fully, and steps backward, when our initial thoughts and hypotheses were proved incorrect. These steps are important elements of rule-based design. Eventually, they were linked together to form designs and a means of communicating these design ideas for the future.

By understanding and envisioning possible futures, people can be better informed in seeking to care about the future of their land for themselves and for future generations. This is a large-scale regional design problem, yet we have chosen to illustrate some solutions at a small scale.  Details that are important at a small scale help to illustrate the impact on a larger area and bring the design problems to a more personal level, one we are more familiar with in our daily lives and better able to comprehend. Our hope is that by illustrating the effects of natural gas exploration, residents, stakeholders and the industry will identify and pursue means to preserve rural Pennsylvania’s distinctive character and the health of its environments, while not inhibiting growth and what for many is positive change. Here is where Landscape Architects can help people understand the future consequences of their present actions and benefit the land and their communities.