The University of Pennsylvania has chosen Marilyn Jordan Taylor, one of the few female powerhouses in the field of architecture, to succeed Gary Hack as dean of its prestigious School of Design.

Taylor, 61, is not a career academic, but instead comes to Penn from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, a large architecture firm known for its portfolio of sleek corporate towers. She spent 35 years at SOM, rising through the ranks to become its first female chairman. Although SOM is associated with such modernist skyscrapers as Lever House in midtown Manhattan and the Sears tower in Chicago, Taylor specialized in what she jokingly describes as "horizontal projects" - the urban planning for major rail, airport and waterfront developments.

Taylor's prominence is likely to add luster to Penn's Design School. She was the first woman and the first non-developer to head the Urban Land Institute, and she helped shape the plan for rebuilding New York's ground zero. Crain's business newspaper twice named her one of the most influential people in New York. She starts work Oct. 1.

Hack is stepping down as dean after serving 12 years in the position, the maximum Penn allows. One of his legacies was the creation of PennPraxis, a nonprofit institute that provides planning assistance to Philadelphia. It recently nudged the city to produce a plan for its underused Delaware River waterfront. Penn's Design School has a long tradition of lending the city its talent for civic enterprises.

- Inga Saffron