Ani Knauff: A legacy of love for the land

Landscape Architecture graduating senior Ani Knauff's interest in ecologically-focused design is a family legacy she is proud to continue.

Landscape Architecture graduating senior Ani Knauff recently received a very special message from her father.

“My dad sent me a picture of my grandma (his mom) with an email saying ‘Your Grandma would be very proud. She always wanted to be a landscape designer. She admired the work of Edna Walling,’” said Knauff, 36, who grew up on a farm in Nar Nar Goon North, Australia, not far from Melbourne. “Edna Walling was a well known Australian landscape designer.”

Knauff’s grandmother, Lesley Evaline Sargeant, “had an impressive cut flower garden for a small suburban house,” she said.

“Her specialty was Camellia,” she said. “She had so many varieties and each holiday would bring my mother dozens of blooms.”

Considering Knauff will soon have her Temple Landscape Architecture degree in hand and has always had a love of combining design with artistry, the bloom doesn’t fall very far from the family tree.

“I grew up on a farm with an extensive garden — we grew our own food, there was an orchard. I’ve always had that connection, but out of high school I initially thought about a degree in the visual arts,” she said. “Being an artist, however, can be a very solitary career. Thinking it through, I knew I wanted a career that was more civic-based, a career where I could help people.”

Knauff spent some time traveling to see more of the world and determine her best career path. Using London, England, as a base for seven months, she visited Ireland, Wales, France and Spain, to name a few. Returning to Australia at 24, she began exploring degree programs.

“My dad, who is an architect and knows my character very well, said ‘why not landscape architecture?’” she said. “There was an extensive interview process and design exercises just to be considered for the program — it was very competitive and I knew right away it was the perfect fit. Landscape architecture combines design and artistry with a focus on people — no matter what it is, you’re designing something that will be used in some capacity every day.”

During that time, she was also given the opportunity to study in the states thanks to a student exchange scholarship at Penn State University.

After two years, Knauff deferred her studies to raise her two children, Clover and Seamus. A stay-at-home mom for six years, after a two-year return to Australia she moved to the United States permanently “so that my daughter could start school,” and landed at Temple.

“A friend suggested Temple. Exploring the landscape architecture program and seeing how so many of the faculty were very much involved in real world practice, I became very excited about becoming a part of it,” she said. “By a happy coincidence, the Ambler Campus is 10 minutes from where we lived.”

After attending three schools where she studied landscape architecture, Knauff said the Ambler Campus provides unique learning experiences not found in other programs.

“Part of it is the campus itself; it has such a long, fascinating history as originally an agricultural school, as a women’s college and now as part of Temple — I think that’s a fabulous asset to everyone studying here. Certainly the access to the Ambler Arboretum and the close ties between the landscape architecture program and horticulture program provide opportunities to learn that you won’t get somewhere else,” she said. “Now that the programs at part of Temple’s Tyler School of Art, that has opened up the prospect of collaborating with students in other Tyler programs, such as architecture, and using both campuses as unique learning environments.”

Knauff was part of the student team that presented Temple’s seven-time award-winning 2016 Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit After the Blast: Recollecting Roots and Resources at Hopewell Furnace. After the Blast was given a unique honor, the National Park System Director’s Award, presented to the exhibit with the best interpretation of a national park. The 2016 show theme was “Explore America: 100 Year of the National Park Service” — only one “Best In Show” Director’s Award was given.

“There was definitely a learning curve for me with the Flower Show. I hadn’t been involved in a design-build project before, I didn’t have the construction experience, I didn’t have to communicate with someone else to build something,” she said. “To see how important collaboration was, how detail oriented you have to be in order for it all to come together, that was a tremendous experience.”

That focus on collaboration has certainly helped in her studios, she said.

“During the fall semester, Dr. Lolly Tai guided us in developing an eco school yard for Greenberg Elementary School in Philadelphia. We produced a book of all of our design work and recommendations that the school can take to the School District of Philadelphia to apply for grants and, hopefully, get the school yard built,” she said. “We submitted that project to the ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) and received word that it won a Merit Award for analysis in the planning category.”

Of course juggling work, family and school is no easy task, but Knauff has ably learned to “take each day as it comes.”

“I have an incredible support network of friends. During the fall semester this year, the (Landscape Architecture) master’s students told me to “keep showing up.” It’s about being present, about persistence,” she said. “There’s an old saying that goes something like success is one percent talent and 99 percent perseverance. I certainly believe that to be true.”

As she moves ever closer to graduation, Knauff is exploring and interviewing with a variety of different design firms, smaller firms with an environmental, ecologically-based focus.

“Ever since the Industrial Revolution, so much about ‘progress’ has been a detriment to the environment — it’s not really advancement if you’re ruining what you need to survive. I am excited to design landscapes that are meant to heal some of the damage done to the planet,” she said. “Last summer I had the opportunity to take part in the John Paul Endicott Summer Internship in Landscape Architecture and Horticulture. Working in the food crops garden, I’ve gained a particular interest in food systems — no where on Earth should anyone have to go hungry.”

While at Temple, Knauff said, she has learned the value of building bridges and “having an inquiring mind.”

“Returning to the classroom, it took me a while to get my intellectual confidence back. Once I had the confidence to ask questions and introduce myself to my professors, there was no looking back,” she said. “They have your best interests at heart and they want you to succeed.”