Landscape Architecture students unveil design concepts for Cape May Parks, walking trail
Students in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture’s Senior Design Studio have circled an important date on their calendar in December — it’s not the one you’re thinking.
On Thursday, December 10, the 27 students presented their designs concepts for Cape May, New Jersey’s Rotary Park, Harborview Park, and a new biking and walking trail linking together all of the historical shore point’s unique and historic features to City of Cape May municipal officials and residents.
“The class is currently working in three project teams and within each team we’ve had groups of two developing design concepts for their respective projects — Rotary Park, Harborview Park, and the Pedestrian City Trail — based on goals and objectives developed by the city and feedback from the community survey and public meeting that was held in October,” said Landscape Architecture Adjunct Assistant Professor Stuart Appel who, with Lecturer in Landscape Architecture Bess Wellborn Yates, is overseeing the year-long student project. “On December 2, the Mayor of Cape May (Edward J. Mahaney Jr.) and the city task force visited Temple Ambler for a progress presentation from our students to comment, review, and revise the designs prior to the December 10 meeting.”
At the December 10 public meeting in Cape May, the Landscape Architecture students presented several concepts for the three parks to the community “and then broke down the attendees into small working groups to further survey their preferences and develop final plans for the spring,” said Appel.
Design concepts for Sewell Point Sanctuary, a 78-acre preserve meant for passive recreation and habitat protection/reconstruction, will become part of the overall project during the Spring 2010 semester, Appel added.
“The public meetings are an opportunity for the students to present their designs to a large, very real group, which is an invaluable experience for anyone going into the field. The residents ask the tough questions and the students have to be able to answer them,” Appel said. “For the students, they recognize that what they are doing matters, that what they are doing will affect a community with real needs and that it will make a genuine impact that will have tangible results.”
Landscape Architecture students undertake year-long design project for Cape May, New Jersey
Anyone familiar with New Jersey’s many and varied shore points has certainly heard of the City of Cape May.
And while just the mention of Cape May might evoke visions of sun drenched beaches, the city is an historical and environmental treasure in its own right.
Priding itself as the “oldest seashore resort,” the City of Cape May is a National Historic Landmark with 600 Victorian houses and hotels. Located between the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware estuary, Cape May has a rich habitat capable of supporting many native plant and animal species — it is on the second largest bird migratory route in the USA and is a prime destination point for bird enthusiasts.
Recognizing the diversity of opportunities the city presents, city officials are determined to provide visitors with an opportunity to easily experience everything that Cape May has to offer. This fall, the City of Cape May has undertaken an ambitious plan to revitalize several of its parks in addition to creating a new pedestrian and biking trail that will highlight and educate visitors about the city’s ecological sites, historic structures, unique neighborhoods, and cultural landmarks.
Rather than seek out a professional firm, however, the project has been developed as a learning experience for 27 students at Temple University Ambler, part of Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture’s Senior Studio course. And while the students may not yet have their licenses, they are approaching the project no less professionally.
“Many of the projects that we work on are hypothetical, but with this project you are responding to the needs of the client; the client drives the end product. It’s a hands-on, real world project for a real community that has the intention of implementing our designs,” said Landscape Architecture Senior Robin Irizarry. “Our goal is to provide the City of Cape May with a system that ties together history, tourism-oriented sites, and natural resources. We want visitors to be able to get a taste of all of the facets that make the city such a unique location.”
The 27 students have been divided into five teams for the year-long undertaking, with each team working on their own designs for the four distinct elements of the project, according to Landscape Architecture Adjunct Assistant Professor Stuart Appel and Lecturer in Landscape Architecture Bess Wellborn Yates. Each team member is additionally focusing on a specific topic for the necessary data collection currently taking place before any design is created — commerce and tourism, ecology and natural resources, and the history of Cape May, for example.
According to Landscape Architecture Senior Rebecca Kagle, who came to Ambler with a Master’s degree in Restoration Ecology, the students will be creating designs for Cape May’s Rotary Park located in the city’s downtown, “which could become a terrific threshold or welcoming area for the city;” the appropriately named Harborview Park, a medium-sized park bordering the large harbor area; and Sewell Point Sanctuary, a 78-acre preserve meant for passive recreation and habitat protection/reconstruction.
“With the sanctuary, we want to make it an important and valuable location for tourism and education while minimizing the impact to habitat and wildlife,” Kagle said. “The fourth aspect of the project is the interpretive trail, which will take pedestrians and bike riders to all of the sites in Cape May. The city has such a commitment to historical and ecological preservation; we want to get people out experiencing Cape May in a new, holistic way.”
Cape May Mayor Edward J. Mahaney Jr. — a Temple University graduate three times over — has been extremely supportive of the project, Appel said, spending the day with the students during their first site visit in early September.
“We initially met with the mayor and he told us of the city’s vision to sustainably tie the independent parks together into a cohesive system with a pedestrian city trail. The mayor is putting together a taskforce — a mix of Cape May city professionals, city council members, residents, and representatives from government and environmental groups such as the Nature Conservancy — who will serve as an advisory group,” he said. “The important part of this project is that it’s not being done in a vacuum; it is a serious and rigorous design process that is driven by the goals and objectives of the community. The students will be held accountable for the work that they do because they are working for an actual client.”
Appel said that while the students are working in separate groups, there will be several points in the planning process where their ideas mesh together to form a cohesive whole.
“During community meetings, the class with go through their material and present a single comprehensive inventory. When we get to designing the parks, the community will be presented with different options and provide the students with feedback,” he said. “In the spring, the students, with city officials and the community, will come to a single solution for each of the four projects.”
Yates said the project is “very much an educational process for everyone involved.”
“City council has likely been through projects like this before, but probably not with a student group. We’re all working together to understand the opportunities and constraints that these sites offer and we’re trying to help the city to understand the sites in different, innovative ways in preparation for the design process,” she said. “I think the benefits for the students to work on a project that they can follow from inventory to completion are tremendous.”
“It’s practical, proactive experience with the added benefit of having mentors to help guide us along,” she said. “It can be fun and creative to design something that you know won’t be built, but to have a design that you’re modifying to the client’s needs, to have direct involvement from the community and have the output be something that they want, and to be able to someday visit Cape May and see our designs become reality is an exciting prospect.”
Building upon a rich history of environmental teaching that dates back to the early 1900s, Temple University Ambler is home to the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture, part of the School of Environmental Design in the College of Liberal Arts. The degree programs are a unique blend of disciplines, providing students with the design and plant background necessary to succeed in any aspect of the Green Industry.
The Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture at Temple University Ambler 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 (B.S. program, M.S. program, Fall 2010). 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.