May 5, 2011
To track where Hannah LaCasse’s interest in landscape architecture began, you have to go back several years before she ever set foot in a classroom at Temple. Setting the “Wayback Machine” machine about 9 years into the past should do it.
“I started a landscaping business with my cousin when I was 13-years-old. I always had an interest in plants, but that’s where my interest in the landscape really blossomed,” LaCasse said, pun fully intentional. “After getting my scuba certification when I was 14, I thought marine biology might be the route for me, but when I discovered landscape architecture as a possible profession, I fell in love with it.”
Landscape architecture, LaCasse said, “is a combination of so many different professions” that the possibilities for a career within the industry catered to her personal interests seemed limitless.
“It combines sociology with art, the environment, and architecture. It’s how we incorporate the land and people together. Landscape architects design the world we live in. Essentially, they are designing everything outside of the buildings,” she said. “Landscape architecture designs need to function for people and the environment and also be beautiful. If you don’t have those three things, you have to go back, reexamine your design, and start over to find a better way.”
Recipient of the School of Environmental Design’s Elizabeth Clarke Award for Conservation Education and a 2011 Ambler Collegial Award recipient for Distinguished Academic Achievement, LaCasse completed her BS in Landscape Architecture with an Art minor and participated in Temple University’s 124th Commencement Ceremony in May.
While at Temple, LaCasse has taken every opportunity to improve her understanding of the profession and hone her own leadership skills inside and outside of the classroom. In 2010, she was the student project manager for the Philadelphia International Flower Show exhibit “METROmorphosis – Transforming the Urban World.” The exhibit won Best in Show in the Academic Education category in addition to the prestigious Bulkley Medal of the Garden Club of America. While at Ambler, LaCasse, recipient of an Ambler Campus Leadership Award at the 20th Annual Student Leadership Banquet, also established the “Ambler Food Committee” to help improve student life on campus, participated in EarthFest, Ambler’s annual outdoor celebration of Earth Day that welcomes thousands to campus, and assisted with and participated in numerous community service and social events.
“The combination of landscape architecture and horticulture, I think is almost unique among programs like this and the design-build aspect of our program is essential — you really begin to understand the importance of communication and teamwork,” she said. “For a project in Doylestown, we’re actually presenting to clients — the Doylestown YMCA — and our ideas might be used to help them meet their goals and vision. In Philadelphia, we are designing the central green space for the Navy Yard, which will help get the ball rolling for officials to see what could be possible.”
During her senior year, LaCasse and her classmates have been focusing on turning asphalt school yards into green, functional, and environmental spaces for students to enjoy.
“The City of Philadelphia has a goal of adding 400 to 500 acres of new green space by 2015 and one of the key areas they are targeting is school yards,” she said. “While creating our visions for the school yards, we are able to talk to principals, teachers, and parents, and we had the students draw us pictures of what they would like to see in the design — some of them were very detailed and innovative. These real world projects that can have a direct impact on people’s lives are vital for us as we get ready to move into the industry.”
In the fall of 2010, LaCasse’s landscape architecture vision took on a global perspective as the Temple Owl had an opportunity to study abroad in the land of the Kiwis — New Zealand.
“I was able to study in New Zealand through the Temple Education Abroad Network (through Temple’s Office of International Affairs),” she said. “I spent the semester at Lincoln University in the town of Lincoln. I filed my paperwork online and within 24 hours I had received a call that I had been accepted.”
LaCasse said she was one of about 23 people from throughout the United States that made the long flight to New Zealand for their semester abroad.
“We were met in Auckland by officials from Lincoln University who helped us acclimate to the New Zealand and native Maori culture. What I really enjoyed was the opportunity to explore the country and to meet people from all over the world,” she said. “There are about 3,000 people at the university and 600 of them are participating in study abroad programs. Within the first night, I had met people from 30 different countries.”
While making the most of her time in the classroom, participating in courses she might otherwise not be exposed to such as food crops production, LaCasse also took advantage of the opportunity to study an island with a broad diversity of environments, including tropical regions, glaciers, and deserts. From hot springs, botanical gardens, and fjords, to the shooting locations of blockbuster films such as Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, she began to fully embrace the country’s laid back “no worries” attitude, though she did experience her first earthquake while attending Lincoln early one September morning.
“I felt the whole room shake. It started at about 4 a.m. and lasted for about 40 seconds,” she said. “Lincoln suffered some damage and you could see some deep cracks in the roads and twisted foot bridges when you traveled. There were still aftershocks take taking place up to the time I left in November.”
LaCasse said her time in New Zealand was an opportunity she wouldn’t have thought of passing up.
“College is four years of your life. You have to take every opportunity you are given,” she said. “Explore your potential and take the time to determine what it is that you love; what it is that you really want to do.”