SED departments become part of Tyler’s Division of Architecture and Environmental Design

Students in the Department of Landscape Architecture work with faculty during a design studio

There is an essential commonality between Temple’s departments of Architecture, Community and Regional Planning, Landscape Architecture and Horticulture, and the Center for Sustainable Communities.

Through hands-on, real-world education and research, each are dedicated to ensuring that the built environment and natural environment work together as a harmonious whole, building a sustainable future for communities in the region, the nation and the world.

Recognizing the important connections between the units, the Temple University Board of Trustees approved the transition of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture and the Department of Community and Regional Planning to the Tyler School of the Art. The two departments join with the Department of Architecture and the Center for Sustainable Communities in the newly formed Division of Architecture and Environmental Design.

“This unification offers many new opportunities for collaborations. There is a high level of excitement for refreshing research connections and pursuing new ones,” said Hester Stinnett, Interim Dean for the Tyler School of Art. “We aim to put Temple and Tyler on par with other highly ranked programs focusing on the built environment. The Division provides us with the opportunity to build interdisciplinary graduate programs in sustainability, urban design, and other built and natural environment fields; increase enrollment; and expand the Center for Sustainable Communities’ research base.”

The synergy between the programs provides opportunities to “combine our resources, research and expertise, which can only benefit our students and further strengthen our offerings,” said Dr. Vicki Lewis McGarvey, Vice Provost for University College and Acting Executive Director of Temple University Ambler.

McGarvey stressed that administratively the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture, Department of Community and Regional Planning and the Center for Sustainable Communities will remain at Temple University Ambler while offering programs and courses at Main, Ambler, Center City and Harrisburg campuses.

“We are very excited about this transition and the departments and Center will continue to be an essential part of Ambler Campus. Our students and faculty are already hard at work on major projects such as the 2016 Philadelphia Flower Show,” she said. “Landscape Architecture and Horticulture and Community and Regional Planning have been a crucial part of our campus history. The Division of Architecture and Environmental Design will be just as important for our future.”

Realigning the disciplines into one cohesive unit mirrors what students will experience in the working world, said Kate Wingert-Playdon, Associate Dean for the Division of Architecture and Environmental Design.

“For our students, whether they are part of an architectural or planning firm, there is going to be strong collaboration between architects, engineers, landscape architects, planners, horticulturists, designers, fine arts professionals. It educates our students in the way the professional field works today — this type of cross-disciplinary cooperation will be part of their lives every day,” she said. “With Main Campus and Ambler Campus we have the entire city and metropolitan region to work in and learn from. We have talked about the Division with our alumni and professional partners and there’s such positive feedback — we have the opportunity to build our civic and professional communities in ways we couldn’t do individually.”

Collaboration between these allied fields within Temple is not without precedent, said Baldev Lamba, Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture.

“In the early 1990’s there was a trial ‘marriage’ between our department and Architecture, so we’ve come full circle. At that time is was more piecemeal and it ended as soon as the two chairs at the time left — this is a much more systematic realignment with so much potential for intellectual synergy,” he said. “We will always be part of Ambler, we are grounded to this place and the history of the campus, but we are universally excited about building connections with our allied disciplines and opening up an even wider dialog about urban and suburban landscapes. I think it re-energizes all of the departments, opening up new venues and possibilities that we didn’t necessary have the structure in place to do before.”

And the new alignment is already bearing fruit, said Lamba.

According to Lamba, Jesse Harrod, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Fibers and Material Studies, has reached out to the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture “because she is eager to create a dye garden.”

“She and her students will collaborate with our students and faculty to learn how to grow and propagate the plants, then harvest and process them to use in their art. This is just one of the immediate examples; faculty throughout Tyler are starting to see the potential for new and innovative collaborations,” he said. “We’re already talking about joint programs in urban design and urban horticulture. The best part is we will be able to work as a team of allied professionals to come up with new ideas.”

Examining programs across the country, schools are “combining art with environmental design, art and horticulture, art and planning and policy,” said Nicole Hall, Director of Admissions for the Tyler School of Art.

“There is a great deal of interest in what these disciplines can accomplish in unison, especially at the graduate level. Our faculty are particularly interested in exploring sustainable design — the interaction between art and space and art and the environment,” she said. “All of our programs are very hands-on. Everything our students are doing deal with real-world issues and points of connection. Our faculty work with our students to discover their role in society.”

The Division of Architecture and Environmental Design provides the departments and Tyler as a whole, “a new cohort of students, ideas, projects and research,” Hall said.

“It provides a different vantage point and will make all of the students better prepared for when they graduate. When Tyler moved from Elkins Park to Main Campus, our students explored facets of Temple that they had never experienced before,” she said. “Ambler is now a new option to explore and I think our students will engage with the campus in the same way that they’ve engaged with so many other programs at Temple.”   

Aligning the programs comes quite naturally, according to Dr. Lynn Mandarano, chair of the Department of Community and Regional Planning, “because planning, landscape architecture and architecture are all terminal degrees that focus on increasing students’ understanding of how design and policy impact the sustainability of built and natural environments and communities.”

“Having a division that includes all of Temple’s built environment professions will create a learning environment that will be beneficial to students, academic programming, and research and faculty collaboration,” she said. “Students will benefit from peer-to-peer learning across disciplines and interaction with faculty from related disciplines. The Division will bring visibility and the opportunity to highlight our excellent academic programs and faculty research.”

The Center for Sustainable Communities will benefit from combining present research fellows and faculty with “a lot of great people with a lot of talent, resources and research experience.”

“The Center has been involved with a lot more neighborhood-based design grants, which includes a lot of architectural design — it will allow us to further push the envelope in research. We able to combine the large and small scale, from big picture, multi-municipal watershed projects to drilling down to single neighborhoods,” he said. “We have an arsenal of experts in green infrastructure, green building, stormwater management. In the end, we’re all trying to do the same thing — protecting streams and rehabilitating neighborhoods.”