March 7, 2011
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 major recognition at the 2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show.
Temple’s exhibit — “Écolibrium – French Traditions/Modern Interpretations” — was presented with the prestigious Bulkley Medal of the Garden Club of America, an honor that Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture exhibits have achieved for two years in a row. The Flower Show continues through Sunday, March 13, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
The Bulkley Medal is awarded to a special exhibit in the fields of horticulture, botany, or conservation and “must be one of exceptional educational merit, which increases the knowledge and awareness of the viewing public,” according to Flower Show organizers. One medal is presented each year across all of the competitive classes at the Flower Show.
“I think winning the Bulkley Medal for the past two years really shows that we’ve ‘upped our game’ in terms of presenting conservation education. Many of the materials we’ve used, particularly this year, are experimental, sustainable building materials that aren’t commercially available on the market yet,” said Baldev Lamba, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, who coordinated Temple’s 2011 Flower Show effort along with Horticulture Staff Supervisor and Adjunct Assistant Professor Grace Chapman and Adjunct Assistant Professor Michael LoFurno. “I think this sustainable message really resonated with the Garden Club of America.”
According to Lamba, the goal of the Écolibrium exhibit is to “promote ideas of sustainability while creating memorable design expressions that are inspired by French garden and French art traditions.”
More than 25 students in the Junior Design Studio and Horticulture Directed Studies program diligently worked on Écolibrium during the fall and spring semesters in preparation for the Flower Show. Inspirations for the design of the exhibit ranged from the gardens at Versailles to the work of artist Piet Mondrian, an important contributor to the “De Stijl” art movement, which advocated “pure abstractions and universality by a reduction of the essentials of form and color.”
A walk through the 36-foot by 20-foot Écolibrium exhibit is a walk through well crafted examples of a variety of sustainable approaches to modern garden design that is informed by French garden traditions such as the use of perspective and optical illusion, balancing light and shade elements, creatively designed parterres, and an extensive use of water elements, such as a canal. Students in the Horticulture Directed Studies program readied more than 2,000 individual plants from 110 different species for the Flower Show exhibit.
Primary sections of the exhibit include a greenhouse complete with green roof garden inspired by Mondrian’s artwork; a sunny parterre and shady — or woodland — parterre; and a canal, which collects water from the greenhouse roof. The 2011 exhibit, Lamba added, incorporates materials Temple has never used in a Flower Show exhibit before, such as “plastisoil.” Developed by Temple University Professor Naji Khoury, the material is a mix of recycled plastic that remains porous and allows numerous colors and patterns to be added into the design.
“It’s a perfect example of sustainable materials that can be quite attractive. We’re also using ‘papercrete’ for our storage structure and some of our flower beds, which is comprised of used newspapers and has a similar consistency to adobe construction,” Lamba said. “With our exhibits we’re constantly striving to cross the boundaries between art, aesthetics, and the environment.”
According to Landscape Architecture junior Patrick Whealton, the student Project Manager for the 2011 exhibit, the Bulkley Medal honor is “a testament to our program’s identity among accredited landscape architecture programs as being one of the leaders in environmentally-conscious design.”
“The variety of plant-based science classes that we are required to take instills in us ecological and horticultural knowledge that is becoming so critical in our field,” he said. “This design/build experience has been so valuable and so much fun to partake in. Understanding the differences between designing on paper only as opposed to designing something to be built was the most important take-away, as many of us have never been a part of a construction project to this point. The preparation and logistics that go into a design/build project add a level of competence that many of us have never experienced.”
Whealton said the students are “extremely proud” of the construction aspect of 2011 exhibit, in part, “because of the sheer magnitude of our structures.”
“Our greenhouse is one of Temple’s tallest structures in recent Flower Show history and our 22-foot-long water feature, containing over 1,200 gallons of water, is the biggest water feature Temple has ever built for the show,” he said. “Our exhibit features a number of materials and themes that relate to sustainability and, most importantly, are applicable to the average gardener or homeowner. The use of recycled products in cutting-edge materials like papercrete and Plastisoil and the idea of salvaging and reusing products like construction lumber and mushroom wood begin to help ‘close the loop’ and prevent waste from entering landfills. The concepts of home food production, composting, rainwater harvesting, and ‘right plant, right place’ are all universal ideas that can be incorporated by anyone, anywhere.”
Lamba agreed that most of the sustainable practices visitors see on display in Temple’s exhibit “are designed to be replicated at home.”
“They can employ rainwater harvesting with a cistern and plant materials or plant a mini green roof on their garden shed or porches. Hopefully our use of papercrete and plastisoil will get people thinking about using recycled, reusable materials in construction,” he said. “You can do all of this with an eye toward creating beautiful, imaginative spaces that, while serving the environment in significant ways, also appeal to all of the senses.”
The recognition that Temple has received at the Flower Show is a tribute to “the broad appeal of our exhibits and their exceptional educational merit,” said Lamba.
“The Bulkley Medal is a very prestigious award that reinforces our mission of conservation, sustainability, and beauty,” he said. “Achieving all these objectives in a limited space is a big challenge. The exhibit is a complex integration of plants, structures, and art in a seamless composition.”
For more information on “Écolibrium,” call 267-468-8108.
Écolibrium 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. It also continues the Department’s decades-long association with the Philadelphia International Flower Show which has resulted in “Best in Show” awards in 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1997, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2010.
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.
For more information on the Horticulture and Landscape Architecture programs at Temple University Ambler, visit www.ambler.temple.edu/la-hort. For more information on the 2011 Philadelphia Flower Show, visit www.theflowershow.com.