Landscape Architecture and Horticulture honored with major awards from ASLA

Master Plan for the Kesington Somerset section of Philadelphia

Temple’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture — celebrating the 25th anniversary of the department’s four-year degrees in 2014 — has a long history of academic excellence.

The work of its students certainly hasn’t gone unrecognized. The department was honored with a treasure trove of awards presented to graduate and undergraduate students by the Pennsylvania-Delaware Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Landscape Architecture and Horticulture students were honored with the following accolades through the PA/DE ASLA’s Student Awards Program:

Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture Program Awards

  • Presidential Award of Excellence in the Communications Category for Aloha ‘āina: A Return to Life with the Land. (Junior Studio — Spring 2012). Faculty: Robert Kuper and Michael LoFurno

  • Merit Award in the General Design Category for The Daylesford Abbey Master Plan. (Senior Studio — Fall 2013). Faculty: Emad Abou Sabe. Submission Advisor: Pauline Hurley-Kurtz.

Master of Landscape Architecture Program Awards

  • Merit Award in the Analysis and Planning Category for Reclaiming Kensington: Kensington-Somerset Neighbors Studio (First Year Community Planning Studio — Spring 2013). Faculty: Bess Wellborn Yates and Pauline Hurley-Kurtz. Teaching Assistant: Sue Ann Alleger. Submission Assistance: Deirdre Lockman.

  • Honor Award in the General Design Category for Cedarbrook Passage (Second Year Woodland Studio — Fall 2013). Faculty: Mary Myers. Teaching Assistant: Robin Irizarry.

A Best in Show-winning exhibit at the Philadelphia Flower Show, Aloha 'āina addressed the show theme, “Islands of Aloha,” by drawing upon an ancient Hawaiian land division system, the State of Hawaii's 2050 Sustainability Plan and modern subtropical landscape design. The exhibit illustrated how ideas about living with the land are just as practical in the northeastern United States as they are in Hawaii.  

The ASLA award jury felt Aloha ‘āina’s presence at the Flower Show was “a very unique venue and approach for promoting sustainability and principles of landscape architecture.” For the ASLA student awards, the Communication Category “recognizes achievements in communicating landscape architecture history, art, technology, theory and practice to those within or outside the profession.” According to the ASLA, they were impressed by the creativity and execution of the exhibit.

“The Presidential Award of Excellence is the highest award in the Communications category. It’s extraordinarily satisfying to receive recognition to conveying our messages clearly and in a variety of ways — through the exhibit, our signage and our takeaway cards,” said Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture Robert Kuper, who coordinated Temple’s 2012 Flower Show exhibit with Adjunct Assistant Professor Michael LoFurno and Horticulturist Kathryn Reber. “We wanted to convey a particular way of thinking and living — the ancient Hawaiians had all the needed to live and thrive on the islands; they understand the place in which they lived. We wanted visitors to think about where we are, what’s unique about it? How can we sustain this place and how to we sustain its specialness?”

The Daylesford Abbey Master Plan project, part of the Senior Landscape Architecture design studio, focused on a 50-year-old spiritual center located in Paoli.

The students’ designs — small groups of five students each produced a master plan for the Abbey — incorporated the Abbey leadership’s visions for increasing membership while developing sustainable site improvements and new program spaces. Designs were to be humble “yet attractive to prospective members.”  

“I think a true benefit of this project was actually working with members of the Abbey community, learning what they wanted out of this project and helping them to achieve their goals,” said Landscape Architecture senior Allison Hanna. “It really provided them with an introduction to the field of landscape architecture and they were very receptive to our ideas. In the end, they said we knew more about the Abbey than they did!”

The ASLA jury felt the project was “an excellent location exhibit and presentation of inventory and analysis and effective graphic communication of various plant attributes.” The General Design Category, in which the Daylesford Abbey project was honored, recognizes “site-specific works of landscape architecture that exhibit distinction in design, function, context and environmental responsibility,” according to the ASLA.

The Cedarbrook Passage project, undertaken by graduate students in the Master of Landscape Architecture program, was additionally recognized with an Honor Award in the General Design Category.

The purpose of the project was to create a design that fostered community awareness, appreciation and involvement with a restored woodland and wetland environment. The jury recognized the “excellent detailed inventory of vegetation, wildlife and habitat that effectively portrayed the richness and diversity of the existing ecological systems” and the presentation as “a highly effective communication tool.”

“This was a project that was undertaken for the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association who, over time, has been trying to purchase land to protect the watershed. Cedarbrook Passage included proposed designs for a section of their Green Ribbon Trail near the Cedarbrook Golf Course and the Penllyn Train Station,” said Dr. Mary Myers, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture. “The students took a broad view of what the trail could be, taking into account a variety of goals — ecological restoration, ecological aesthetics, stormwater management, children’s education, educational signage. The students conducted a thorough inventory of the existing conditions — what needed to be restored, what was missing and what needed to be removed, such as invasive weeds.”

Reclaiming Kensington, also undertaken by Master of Landscape Architecture students, was presented with a Merit Award in the Analysis and Planning Category, which recognizes “excellence in the wide variety of activities that lead to, guide, or evaluate landscape architecture design,” according to the ASLA.

The project focused on the development of a mixed-use Philadelphia neighborhood facing the social, cultural and economic problems inherent with urban decline. Students collaborated with the New Kensington Community Development Corporation and area residents to conduct a detailed inventory and analysis of the neighborhood. Each student then developed a design program and proposed a master plan of the entire neighborhood along with a detail design of a vacant lot. The ASLA jury appreciated “the fantastic ideas and dialogue generated with local citizens and interested community groups.”

“Kensington Somerset’s urban core includes dozens of vacant lots, physical boundaries between it and adjacent neighborhoods, and a lack of safe, green and productive landscapes; crime is a significant issue that residents face daily.

We were approached by the New Kensington Community Development Corporation who were aware of our revitalization work in Francisville,” said Pauline Hirley-Kurtz, Chair of the Department Landscape Architecture and Horticulture. “Between January and May 2013, the Development Corporation, the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections, and our first-year graduate landscape design studio undertook a cooperative project to document, analyze, and develop design strategies for the Kensington Somerset neighborhood. The Somerset Neighbors for Better Living Civic Association was very supportive throughout the process as our students took field trips to the neighborhood and conducted large scale site analysis.”   

Project goals included designing potential community-based infrastructure and opportunities, which could ultimately help improve the quality of life in the neighborhood. Students inventoried and analyzed the Kensington Somerset site, including property ownership, vacancies, land uses, zoning, social and economic demographics, crime and the site’s natural features. They developed scalable solutions, cost-effective landscaping ideas, and site-specific strategies that would benefit current residents and contribute to neighborhood resilience and quality of life.

“Projects of this nature are of particular benefit to our students because it gives them an opportunity to interact with a community as a client. Service learning projects are a particular area of specialty within landscape architecture education,” Hurley-Kurtz said. “Some of our students have never worked within an urban context before. They are gaining real world experience working with agencies from grass roots organizations to local governments and our students do excellent work and become invested in these communities — they become a real resource toward improving quality of life.”

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