Landing the Perfect Landscape Architecture Job: Getting Hands-on with the Latest Technology

Landscape Architecture students are creating a vibrant vision of the future at the Ambler Campus, a vision made possible by the exceptional creativity of students given the tools to take the ideas in their heads and give them photo realistic three dimensionality.

The building is pristine and new, all gleaming metal, unblemished brick and shimmering glass. The surrounding pathways are teaming with vibrant plant and animal life. Birds scatter at a passerby. The sun dapples the landscape with a mix of light and shadow through gently swaying trees.

Instructors are sharing their knowledge while students are engaged in hands-on learning experiences that will benefit them greatly after they leave Temple. It is a vibrant vision of the future at the Ambler Campus, a vision made possible by the exceptional creativity of landscape architecture students given the tools to take the ideas in their heads and give them photo realistic three dimensionality.

“It is one thing to show a client a landscape concept on paper. Being able to show a client a fly-through of your design or have them even ‘walk’ through parts of it before it’s ever close to being built — that’s a whole different level,” said Reid Overturf, Assistant Director for Information Technology Services at Temple University Ambler. “What drives technology services at Temple Ambler is ensuring quality student/teacher learning experiences, experiences that reflect what is happening, or when possible, what’s the next thing that will be happening in their profession. We want our students to have access to the very latest technology to ensure that they are not only current, but ahead of the curve.” 

Lumion, for example, “is a powerful software tool that takes a 3-D model — in our case a landscape architecture design — and makes it into this gorgeous visual presentation that, coupled with virtual reality, you can look at in a full 360 degrees,” Overturf said.

“The students can really give a client a sense of space, a sense of what their design will look like in the world. They can say ‘This is what it looks like at night,’ and show them how that will look — it can truly be as detailed as they want to make it,” he said. “It’s important to keep in mind that Lumion is very much an end result, not a starting point. Our students become fully versed in traditional hand-drawn design, AutoCad, ArcGIS, Photoshop, Sketch-up and other programs before they get to the point where they are making fly-throughs in Lumion; it’s a visual representation of the culmination of their skills.”

This well-rounded approach to traditional landscape architecture methods coupled with plant knowledge — an essential part of Temple’s program — and cutting edge technology is helping recent graduates find their dream jobs.

“At Temple, we were able to get hands-on with new technology all the time. Landscape Architecture is a very competitive, and at the same time collaborative, field. You find ways to help one another while distinguishing yourself and in that way you find your strengths, whether that’s graphics, plants, or rendering,” said Pat Playdon, who graduated with a Master of Landscape Architecture (MLArch) degree in May 2017 and is now working at OLIN in Philadelphia. “I was first introduced to Lumion during my capstone course — I developed a township park in Kempton, PA — and now it’s becoming the standard in the industry. We’re using it now at OLIN.”

Jenna Otto joined the MLArch program seeking a career change. She was particularly drawn to the program’s strong focus on ecological restoration and the horticultural side of landscape architecture. Working for Computer Services at Temple Ambler as a student, she also dove into using the latest technology to produce “outstanding presentations for the clients we were working with.”

“I graduated in May 2018 and started working at Bernardon, an architecture, interior design and landscape architecture firm, in June. I was hired before I graduated,” she said. “I was able to connect with a representative from Bernardon at a Temple career fair and was able to show them my 360-degree rendering work and fly-throughs that I created using Lumion — there is a great deal of portability built into Lumion. That helped start a conversation and gave me the opportunity to show that I had the skills that they were looking for.”

Like Otto, fellow Landscape Architecture graduate Alyssa Bodley didn’t have to wait long to begin her career. She was hired as a landscape designer by Glackin Thomas Panzak in Paoli in August.

“I honestly think my knowledge of Lumion and the other technologies so essential to the field now, coupled with my plant knowledge and other skills I learned at Temple certainly helped me get the job,” Bodley said. “You have to put a lot into a program like Lumion to get the results you are looking for, but you get a lot out of it in return — there’s definitely a wow factor but I think the most important thing is it helps to promote understanding. People with little to no knowledge of landscape architecture or landscape design can look at these presentations and understand what your plan is all about.”

Overturf said ensuring the latest technology is available often starts and ends with the students.

“The push for Lumion was student-driven. They knew what this software could do and it gave us the impetus to install the hardware that could run these graphics-intensive rendering programs. From there, it was students like Alyssa that made the push to ensure these tools were available at Main Campus as well,” he said. “Our goal is to ensure that our students have the skills they need to get jobs in a highly competitive field. I think the fact that our students are being hired right after graduation shows just how creative and talented they are.”