Hamed Lavasani: Preserving ecology one design at a time

Hamed Lavasani will graduate with a Master of Landscape Architecture degree from Temple on May 11.

Coming to the United States, Master of Landscape Architecture student Hamed Lavasani discovered a calling that he hadn’t been exposed to prior to coming to the northeast.

“Studying ecological design, ecological restoration isn’t really taking place in Iran yet,” said Lavasani, 33, who received his bachelor’s degree in architecture while living in Tehran, where nine million people live in the city and 16 million live in the wider metropolitan area. “I was looking to continue my studies in something similar to my undergraduate program. I knew I wanted a graduate program that connected both design and nature.”

After working for an architectural firm in Iran as a project designer, Lavasani spent a year in Cypress at Eastern Mediterranean University prior to moving to the United States — he will complete the long road to citizenship in just a few short months.

“(Eastern Mediterranean) wasn’t exactly the right fit, but it was a helpful bridge to coming here. I became inspired by the beautiful woodlands of this region — the northeastern region of the United States is one of the most biodiverse in the world,” said Lavasani, who will graduate this month. “I researched programs in the area and became particularly interested in the ecological restoration focus on Temple’s Master of Landscape Architecture program. It is design based on science — design based on the best, least intrusive use of a space. I wanted to know more about the science, about working with the biology and nature of a site instead of against it.”

Lavasani said it didn’t take him long to feel right at home at the Ambler Campus.

“It’s a beautiful campus. I grew up in a city with a very large population; I’ve come to really like the suburbs,” said Lavasani, the 2017 recipient of the John Collins Drawing Award, given to a student that demonstrates a talent for drawing and rendering, both by hand and computer generated, and has also demonstrated good citizenship as a member of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture. “From a practical standpoint, there is no better place for us to learn about ecological restoration, plant ecology and design than a campus that is also an arboretum. It provides inspiration and tangible examples of design principles everywhere you look.”

Lavasani has been able to put that inspiration to good use. Most of his graduate studios include developing designs for real-world clients. For Woodland Ecology the client was the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust. For his Public Design studio, the client was Greenberg Elementary School, where the students developed a design for an “eco school yard that I think has a good possibility of actually being implemented,” he said. The project was a 2017 recipient a Merit Award from Pennsylvania- Delaware Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, with Dr. Lolly Tai, PhD as the project advisor.

In Wetland Design the graduate students went to work for the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation, who tasked his class with a full redesign of FDR Park in Philadelphia.

“It was a very complicated, very intense project. Working with clients, you have to create a design that is practical and that fits within a budget,” he said. “You also have to meet the needs of the client while also taking into account what your instructors and professors are looking for. It’s an excellent experience that helps prepare you for working in a professional design studio.”

For Lavasani’s capstone work, he interned with the Montgomery County Planning Commission where he was given the opportunity to design 15 acres of Central Lorimer Park in Abington and Lower Moreland Township.

“The area that I designed includes a parking area, ADA accessible trail system, pavilion and information signage, picnic furniture, two bridges, two decks, a hillside restoration plan and stream bank restoration for a section of Pennypack Creek. I also developed the plant palette for the site,” he said. “I had the opportunity to work with Montgomery County Open Space Planner Shane Greenburg, who is a 2010 graduate of Temple’s program. This is another project that is likely to see implementation.”

For Lavasani’s next stop, he has his sights set for a landscape architecture firm, architectural design firm or multi-disciplinary firm that keeps ecological restoration front and center.

“There are a lot of job opportunities for science-based designers,” he said. “You can take the soils, take the ecology of a site into account and make better design choices while also creating something that is aesthetically beautiful.”

Coming to Temple, Lavasani said “changed my lifestyle.”

“I went more green personally and professionally. I learned about global warming and where we are headed if we don’t find paths to slow it down,” he said. “As a designer, as a U.S. citizen, I want to take approaches that are less disturbing to the Earth. I’ve become a member of the green movement and it’s an honor to be a part of it — I feel like I’m doing something beneficial for society.”