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Landscape Architecture Professor Earns Spot in National Design Exhibition

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Danville,PA: Small Town Revitalization

A project entry by Penn State Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture Caru Bowns has been accepted for the Philadelphia Community Design Collaborative (CDC) national exhibition, Leverage: Strengthening Neighborhoods through Design. The CDC is a non-profit organization that provides pro bono design services to communities and non-profit organizations. The exhibition will highlight the best practices of design firms, nonprofit organizations, public agencies, and others engaged in community design.

The exhibition will be on display from Saturday, October 1 through Sunday, October 23 at the Center for Architecture in Philadelphia and will coincide with the 2011 Design in Action Conference for the Association of Architecture Organizations, Architecture and Design Education Network, and the Association for Community Design. The exhibition will also be featured in “Design Philadelphia 2011,” the largest citywide design festival in the nation.

Bowns’ entry, Leveraging Participation for Small Town Revitalization: Danville, PA CBD Master Plan and Design Studies, will join more than forty diverse projects, representing planning and design work from New York City, Chicago, Dallas, and Philadelphia.

Her exhibit entry documents a three year faculty-student engagement of public participation, community-informed reports, and collaborative research that comprised the initial stages of an economic development plan being implemented in Danville, a small town in Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River Valley. Like many rural communities, an exodus of businesses and families has impacted Danville, leading to a diminished civic center and other support structures. In 2008, Danville community leaders applied to Penn State’s Hamer Center for Community Design for faculty and student support to facilitate community consensus for revitalization.

Community meetings regarding the town’s assets and long-term vision led to design studies of townscape issues and, ultimately for Bowns, a Hamer Center Fellowship for Research. In collaboration with regional planners, Danville’s business alliance and Bloomsburg State University, Bowns’ research team expanded on earlier work by developing a detailed analysis of the underutilized infrastructure in the town’s central business district. The “Danville, PA CBD Upper Floors Study”—written by Bowns, with landscape architecture alumnus Zach Pyle (’10), and other members of the research team—identified the redevelopment of this area as a potential path to revitalization.

Danville’s story is on-going, and Bowns’ research continues to inform its evolution. Most recently, Carnegie Mellon and the Pennsylvania Downtown Center (PDC) selected the town as a finalist in a program to develop small town structures with economic potential.

“This research exemplifies how collaboration and creative engagement can lead to sustainable development in small towns,” Bowns said.

Penn State's H. Campbell and Eleanor R. Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture is a leader in professional design education comprised of an interdisciplinary confederation of strong design disciplines: Architecture, Design, and Landscape Architecture.

For more information, contact Michele Marchetti at or 814-863-7268.