Temple University Ambler’s “Aloha ‘āina” Wins Best in Show at the
2012 Philadelphia International Flower Show
Podcast: Aloha ‘āina
Exploring “Aloha ‘āina” In Depth: Students in Assistant Professor Amy Caples’ Voice Over Techniques for Media class (BTMM 2721) spent the last few weeks following the dedicated hard work students in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture put into completing “Aloha ‘āina: A Return to Life with the Land”for the Philadelphia International Flower Show. Their podcast provides an insightful look at the award-winning exhibit from design to completion in addition to providing a look at the history on the Flower Show, the largest event of its kind in North America. Featured students are: Stephanie Hudson, Jim Miller, Attia Taylor, Dan Ruhling, Michael Zollo, and Megan Fiscus. Students providing research and support were: Andrew Laufer, Paige Miller, Ken Oyegun, Mihir Patel, Lauren Ramos, and Shoma Sheppard. Listen to the Aloha ‘āina podcast.
Many months of design, planting, nurturing, construction, ingenuity, creativity, and collaboration by dozens of students and faculty in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture at Temple University Ambler resulted in top honors at the 2012 Philadelphia International Flower Show.
Temple’s exhibit — “Aloha ‘āina: A Return to Life with the Land” — was presented with “Best in Show” in the Academic Education category.
“Winning Best in Show is certainly a validation of all of the hard work put into creating this exhibit over the last 16 weeks,” 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. “Even before the award was announced, when we finished up construction (at the Convention Center) on Friday, students stayed just to look at the exhibit. They had worked so long on it — from the drawings to building the various pieces that went into the exhibit — but they had never had the opportunity to see it all together. I think it came out so much better than we ever could have imagined.”
With Aloha ‘āina, LoFurno said, Temple worked hard to develop an exhibit that clearly reflected the aesthetics many would expect with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Flower Show theme being Islands of Aloha, “but we were also able to address issues of sustainability and gardening in the Delaware Valley.”
“This year we made a real effort to get beyond a 10-foot (height) limit. You can see the exhibit from across the show floor — it has a real presence at the show that visitors are drawn to,” he said. “We have these great water features while continuing to be water conscious and we had wonderful plants to pick from thanks to our horticulturists and the students that worked in the greenhouse for so long. We really wanted to show that wherever possible you could use native plants in a colorful, exciting and vibrant way.”
LoFurno said while the height of the mountain might draw visitors in, when they arrive at the exhibit they are able to walk within Aloha ‘āina for an up close look at the fine details, from the various materials that comprise the “ahu towers” to the richly diverse plant selection.
“Providing visitors the ability to walk through our exhibit is one of our priorities; we want them to get up close and see how the exhibit has been put together,” he said. “Visitor response has been terrific. We’ve had a line waiting to walk through!”
More than 20 Landscape Architecture and Horticulture students diligently worked on Aloha ‘āina during the fall and spring semesters in preparation for the Flower Show, designing and building the structures — including an 18-foot-tall mountain, which is the exhibit’s primary water feature, and a 15-foot-tall shade structure — and preparing 1,500 plants from about 100 different species. Aloha ‘āina presents Hawaii’s history and ecology in microcosm, from Hawaii’s 2050 Sustainability Plan back to the ancient Hawaiian land division system of “ahupua’a” — families would maintain wedges of land from the mountain crests to the ocean providing all of their needs for food, water and shelter, each area clearly demarcated by stone cairns.
Entering the exhibit, visitors move from an architectural environment to a more naturalistic environment. Aloha ‘āina’s entrance consists of three colorful walls that provide an indirect route into the exhibit. Within the exhibit, visitors spy several “ahu towers” that recall the stone cairns of ancient Hawaii, each uniquely created and filled with everything from stone and shells to sticks and branches leading to a “living wall” of plants. Water descends from the mountainside to pool in a woodland garden while a stream passes under a metal catwalk leading to the rain garden and wetlands. Taro beds — the principal food crop in the Hawaiian Islands — grow beneath the shade structure while culinary herbs and vegetables fill the cold frames.
“People seem to really be enjoying the exhibit. Everyone that walks through has had a lot of good things to say about it — they really seem to like the living wall, the ahu towers and the cold frames,” said Landscape Architecture Junior Jacob Krieger who worked on the mountain and the living wall. “We put a lot of time, effort and hard work into the exhibit and it feels great to know that all that has been recognized. Finishing a project from design to completion has shown us every part that goes into a project — there are a lot of variables that go into projects that we either didn’t think about or didn’t know about until we started doing it. The Flower Show has been a great experience.”
Kuper said a design-build project of this type leads to “an advancement in thinking” for students when they approach projects in the future.
“They are realizing ideas — taking something in their head, putting it on paper, and then actually building it,” he said. “They are resolving problems that crop up and finding solutions that are functional and structurally sound. Participating in this project, I think, certainly bolsters their confidence in their own abilities.”
Landscape Architecture junior Liz Bieber said working on the exhibit provided her with a greater understanding “that when you design a project you need to understand what it will take to complete a project.”
“You need contractors, clients and coworkers to understand how you see an idea and how that idea needs to be executed in order to work. We were so proud to see our design completed and we were hoping others would see this as well,” she said. “To come away with Best in Show makes the entire process worth the amount of time and energy we put towards this project.”
The Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture at Temple University Ambler, part of the School of Environmental Design in Temple’s College of Liberal Arts, is committed to excellence in ecologically based education. The department’s goal is to train leaders in the art and science of horticulture (A.S., B.S., and certificate programs) and landscape architecture (MLArch and B.S. programs). The programs provide students with knowledge and understanding of the environment so that they can improve the quality of our urban, suburban, and rural communities.
Temple University Ambler reaches new heights with 2012 Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit "Aloha 'āina"
From left to right, Landscape Architecture juniors Ellen Biegert, Loc Tran, Tim Lederman, and Jacob Krieger put together the interior structures of what will become an 18-foot-tall mountain — the primary water element of Temple University Ambler's 2012 Philadelphia International Flower Show exhibit, “Aloha ‘āina: A Return to Life with the Land.”
Students and faculty in Temple University Ambler’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture have high hopes for their 2012 Philadelphia International Flower Show exhibit — “Aloha ‘āina: A Return to Life with the Land.”
Aloha ‘āina seeks to illustrate how ideas about living with the land are just as practical in the northeastern United States as they are in Hawaii by not only filling the 20-foot by 30-foot exhibit space with a perfect balance between the natural landscape, architecture, landscape design, horticulture, and sustainability but by proving that the sky is literally the limit to the students’ creativity.
Towering above the lush landscape of paw paws, magnolias, corkscrew rush and pitcher plants will be an 18-foot tall mountain — the primary water feature of Aloha ‘āina — and a giant, tree-like shade structure standing nearly as tall at 15 feet. They are the tallest structures Temple has created for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s annual event and are only part of an exhibit that draws inspiration from a wide variety of environmental, historical and cultural concepts integral to understanding Hawaii’s past, present, and future.
“With the mountain, we want to communicate how water accumulates and moves, from mists at the top tier to trickling and dripping water streams along its stone surfaces into pools that recharge the other water elements in the exhibit,” said Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture Robert Kuper, which is coordinating Temple’s 2012 Flower Show exhibit with Adjunct Assistant Professor Michael LoFurno and Horticulturist Kathryn Reber. “(LoFurno) and I began talking about the exhibit last May — we really wanted to add height to it to show the variety of landscape features in Hawaii. The shade structure takes a form inspired by trees sweeping up to the mountains.”
According to LoFurno, the 2012 exhibit repurposes materials in several ways.
“The exterior of the mountain is being built using ‘papercrete,’ which is comprised of recycled newsprint that the students will sculpt to look like stone. The understructure is wood that has been reclaimed and donated by Revolution Recovery.” he said. “The idea is to use these repurposed materials in ways that are unique, aesthetic, and inspirational. I think the height of the mountain will give the exhibit great visibility wherever you are at the Flower Show — it will make people want to investigate further and learn more.”
More than 20 Landscape Architecture and Horticulture students have been diligently working on Aloha ‘āina during the fall and spring semesters in preparation for the March Flower Show, designing and building the structures and preparing 1,500 plants from about 100 different species. Aloha ‘āina presents Hawaii’s history and ecology in microcosm, from Hawaii’s 2050 Sustainability Plan back to the ancient Hawaiian land division system of “ahupua’a” — families would maintain wedges of land from the mountain crests to the ocean providing all of their needs for food, water and shelter, each area clearly demarcated by stone cairns.
From left to right Horticulture senior Chelsea Mahaffey, Horticulture Technician Kathryn Reber, and Horticulture senior Brandon Huber work to ready more than 1,500 plants for the Aloha ‘āina exhibit.
“When you enter the exhibit, you move from an architectural environment to a more naturalistic environment. We want what we are presenting to be practical — cold frames, rain gardens, shade structures — techniques that a homeowner could replicate,” said Kuper. “We tried to create a subtropical environment with plants that have broad compound leaves and are native or have adapted to the northeast region; vibrantly colored plants that also have some value or use — culinary, medicinal, ecological — in addition to being ornamental.
The exhibit entrance consists of three colorful walls, according to Kuper, that provide an indirect route into the exhibit.
“No one enters directly,” he said. “We wanted to express some of the mystery of Hawaii, this series of tropical islands with so many nooks and crannies.”
Within the exhibit, visitors will spy several “ahu towers” that recall the stone cairns of ancient Hawaii, each uniquely created and filled with everything from stone and shells to sticks and branches leading to a “living wall” of plants. Water descends from the mountainside to pool in a woodland garden while a stream passes under a metal catwalk leading to the rain garden and wetlands. Taro beds — the principal food crop in the Hawaiian Islands — grow beneath the shade structure while culinary herbs and vegetables fill the cold frames.
Aloha ‘āina continues a long tradition in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture of interdisciplinary and hands-on learning experiences that promote a sustainable design approach.
The students are taking a team approach to the project — similar to how a professional landscape architecture firm would approach such a complex task. Prior to beginning construction on the exhibit, the teams were comprised of students focusing on: Architecture; Water and Paving Elements; and Plants.
“It’s exciting to be doing something that no one has done before. It’s a terrific experience to be working in a group, working on deadline to build what we have designed,” said Landscape Architecture Junior Jacob Krieger who is working on the mountain and the living wall. “We’re using a lot of local material and incorporating a lot of native plants in new ways. I like the idea of being able to teach the public while I’m also learning myself.”
In the Ambler Campus Greenhouse, students have been working since October to ensure the plants and trees are ready for their big debut.
“Each individual species has its own needs. It is an intense process preparing plants for the Flower Show,” said Reber. “We have to closely examine each plant’s life cycle, how they grow, when they will bloom, and under what conditions while also keeping the plants healthy and protected from pests and disease — it’s a great opportunity to learn how to troubleshoot and come up with creative solutions. Since all of these plants need to be in peak bloom or have immaculate foliage for the single week of the Flower Show, we focus on the minute details of their growth in order to gauge what actions we need to take to make sure that they are timed perfectly.”
Temple University Ambler is one of only a handful of exhibitors that forces its own plants for their exhibits.
From left to right, Temple University Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture Robert Kuper, Landscape Architecture junior Jacob Krieger and Adjunct Assistant Professor Michael LoFurno review a detailed model of Temple University Ambler’s 2012 Philadelphia International Flower Show exhibit — “Aloha ‘āina: A Return to Life with the Land.”
“There is a great deal of time management involved. You essentially have to replicate the seasons for the plants,” said senior Horticulture student Chelsea Mahaffey. “Our exhibits are so much more than just a pretty display; you can learn a great deal from them. I hope visitors get excited about the growing techniques they are seeing and use them in their own gardens.”
Landscape Architecture Junior Joe Marker said exhibit visitors inspired by what they see in Aloha ‘āina “don’t have to go too far outside of their community to find the materials and the knowhow to create something new in an economical way.”
“Almost everything we are creating here you could do at home,” he said. “This exhibit has so many elements, but there is practicality to all of them. I hope it changes people’s views of sustainability.”
The Philadelphia International Flower Show, presented each year by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) is the largest indoor event of its kind in North America, welcoming more than 300,000 visitors a year.
Temple University Ambler has a long and illustrious history with the Flower Show, taking home “Best in Show” awards in 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1997, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2010 and prestigious honors from the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania in 2004 and the Horticultural Society in 2006. In 2011, Temple University Ambler’s exhibit was awarded the prestigious Bulkley Medal of the Garden Club of America.