May 15, 2007
Just days from graduation, Joshua Meyer has his mind on his future. That future, however, is firmly rooted in the past.
After receiving his degree in Landscape Architecture on Thursday, May 17, walking in Temple University’s 120th Commencement Ceremony and participating in the Ambler College Diploma Ceremony back at the Ambler campus that follows, Meyer will be returning to his home state of Maine to place an historical spin on an important landscape.
“This summer I will be working at McLaughlin Garden in South Paris, Maine. I’ve been an amateur gardener all of my life and I really wanted to get my hands in the mud, I wanted to be involved in horticultural work and really learn about the plants,” said Meyer, 22, who is originally from South Portland, Maine. “I will be helping to create a master plan to maintain the integrity of the gardens and restore them to their 1840s character. The location has an historic home and barn, about four acres of gardens, and the largest collection of lilacs in the state.”
His ambition, Meyer said, is to “practice as a landscape architect,” with a specialization in historic sites.
“I’ve developed a newfound interest in landscape archeology,” said Meyer, who was a Dean’s Leadership Award recipient for 2007 and a Russell Conwell Award winner in 2006. “I’d love to work at an historic site or landscape as the curator. I’d like to work in the non-profit sector, certainly in the green industry.”
Meyer came to the landscape architecture field quite naturally.
“Growing up in Maine, I was surrounded by natural landscapes. I remember going to parks as a child, exploring caves and mountains. Over the years, I learned that many of the locations that I had visited had been designed famous landscape architects and designers,” he said. “Once I learned that such a profession existed, that was definitely something I wanted to be a part of. I’ve always loved the environment and a career in the green industry, to me, seemed like the best use of my creativity.”
Transitioning to Temple University Ambler, Meyer said, came easily.
“I wanted a smaller setting, but I also wanted to be close to the city. Temple was really the only program that offered that diversity of experience on the East Coast,” he said. “I knew that here I could get the traditional knowledge that I needed while also fine tuning it to what my personal goals were. I made a visit to Ambler at the end of the March or the beginning of April when the crocuses were in bloom — and Maine was still mud from winter — and it just felt right.”
Having the resources of the entire University readily available at a smaller, more intimate location proved invaluable, Meyer said.
“The faculty at Ambler are exceptional, very personable and very willing to mentor you. The program is so broad that it gives you the ability to find your niche in the profession and the design-build part of the program — being able to take projects from design to completion — is an amazing aspect,” said Meyer, who was on the design and illustration team for Temple University Ambler’s 2006 award-winning entry into the 2006 Philadelphia Flower Show, “Nature Nurtures – Mind, Body, Spirit.” “Whatever your interest, it’s available to you in some fashion here or at the Main Campus.”
Meyer also reaped the benefits of living on campus for three years.
“It was a great way to get to know the campus and build up a whole circle of friends. I remember early on taking my ‘woodies’ identification classes, being introduced to all of those trees on campus and for the first time being able to name them and tell my friends which trees were which — it was a glorifying experience,” he said. “I remember hanging out on the ramp at Cottage Hall 10 during the Junior Studio and just watching people go by — this is a great place for people watching. I didn’t have to worry about all nighters because I could go back to the residence hall at 3 a.m. and still get some sleep.”
In summer 2006, Meyer was the recipient of a Rudy Favretti Historic Landscape Fellowship through the Garden Club of Virginia at the University of Virginia. As a Fellow, he spent three months living in Virginia, visiting, researching, and documenting committee-selected historic sites and keeping a daily log of his work. Fellows submitted present-day photos of the site in the log as well as a listing of all research material consulted in their efforts to uncover the history of the gardens and landscape of their sites. Using a topographical survey as a base, the Fellows produced measured drawings of the current condition of the site to be placed in an archive of historic gardens in Virginia. The Fellows also documented their complete findings on the history of the sites in a written report.
“It was my first introduction to the southern part of the United States. There is such a rich cultural and landscape history,” he said. “Virginia has some of America’s greatest natural treasures. It was a great experience and further sparked my interest in historic landscapes and historic preservation.”
During the Fall 2006 semester and part of the Spring 2007 semester, Meyer continued to pursue his passion for preserving the past, securing an internship with the prestigious Philadelphia Historical Commission.
“I had been doing a series for the Temple Column on the ‘hidden treasures’ on campus — the historical buildings and landscapes — and met with Janet Klein, a member of the campus Board of Visitors and a member of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, who told me about the internship. For the internship, I was asked to select an historic landscape in the City of Philadelphia and develop an historical designation report for it,” he said. “I chose the garden street of St. Albans Square and Madison Square, which has a diverse history. It was a scene of one of the first race riots in the city; The Sixth Sense was filmed there; it is also one of the first examples of the ‘City Beautiful’ movement.”
Back at Ambler, Meyer was taking strides to document the campus’s own rich history while also becoming an important part of student life on campus. He was public relations coordinator for the Ambler Campus Program Board in his sophomore year, a member of the Landscape Architecture and Horticulture Student Association, and wrote for the Temple Column student newspaper for more than two years — he was layout editor for the newspaper in his junior year.
“Initially I was brought into events and programs on campus through my friends, but the ‘involvement’ bug at Ambler is contagious,” he said. “It adds so much to your college experience. Once I caught it, I realized I could make a difference on campus.”
While writing his ‘Hidden Treasures’ features for The Column, the personal project that earned him a 2006 Russell Conwell Award, Meyer came across Shoemaker House, which dates back centuries and is potentially one of the oldest historic buildings in the county.
“I came across it just walking through the woods,” he said. “It is one Ambler’s most historical treasures. I couldn’t just let it go; I wanted to document it.”
Since that time, Temple University Ambler’s newly formed Sustainability Council has taken great interest in the historic building and, with the help of the Department of Community and Regional Planning, the Department Landscape Architecture and Horticulture, the Landscape Arboretum, and a group of dedicated volunteers, has begun the process of clearing away decades of overgrowth and debris around the building’s exterior and nearby stream.
Meyer said if there is one constant at Ambler it’s that “you can always expect friendliness on campus.”
“You’d be surprised at who is willing to help you. Students just starting out shouldn’t be overwhelmed and shouldn’t be afraid of pursuing any interest that they have on campus,” he said. “Ambler is a great place for personal growth and intellectual growth — it’s simply a great place to go to school.”