May 7, 2012
Anna Aniśko came to Temple’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture no stranger to the green industry having spent more than a decade as a landscape designer and botanical illustrator before deciding to return to the classroom.
“My interest in the natural world — native plants, the landscape, the environment — comes from my home. I grew up in the mountains of Poland surrounded by meadows, forests and wild gardens,” said Aniśko, who will be one of the first 10 graduates to complete Temple’s Master of Landscape Architecture program, first established in Fall 2010. “My father was a wood technologist — he taught me the scientific names of many trees. My parents were the garden experts and they imparted their knowledge and love of the land to me.”
With a passion for drawing, Aniśko, 42, of Kennett Square, said she first wanted to attend art school, but her passion for horticulture — where she could also put her artistic abilities to good use — won out. She went on to complete a Master of Science in Horticulture degree at the University of Life Sciences in Poznan, Poland.
“I could see the changes in the environment, how the pollution from nearby power plants was affecting the environment,” she said. “I saw swaths of trees die; I remember as a child helping to replant lost trees.”
Moving to the United States with her husband Tomasz, now the curator of plants at Longwood Gardens, Aniśko put her skills to good use as a botanical illustrator at the Morris Arboretum from 1997 to 2011. She also worked as a landscape designer for Kummer & Ott Associates from 1996 to 1999, Thomas H. Kummer Fine Arts in West Chester from 2004 to 2008 and established her own business, Anna Aniśko Garden Maker.
“It was while working for Thomas Kummer that I realized I wanted to be part of every aspect of the business and I wanted the formal training to allow me to do that,” she said. “Temple’s new Master of Landscape Architecture program, which emphasizes ecological restoration, is what I was looking for — a combination of landscape architecture, horticulture, and art with a passion for native plants.”
In the landscape architecture field, “you can sometimes see a lack of understanding of the environment,” said Aniśko, who will be the School of Environmental Design (SED) Graduation Ceremony student speaker on May 10 at Temple University Ambler.
“Temple’s program doesn’t set aside the environment. It’s not just form and design — it’s including native plants in design and learning about the plants in the Ambler Arboretum,” she said. “When you start talking about plant communities rather than a single plant that is good for the environment and good for design. The group work in the program is a wonderful experience. It’s almost like being in a firm and the work that comes out of it is incredible.”
Aniśko first began at Temple with two years in the Landscape Architecture undergraduate degree program, which provided a solid foundation in design and engineering, before transitioning to the master’s program.
“One of the great things about being among the first students in the Master of Landscape Architecture program is that we are really helping to form the program. This is not a passive process — as students we bring all kinds of ideas into the classroom and into our projects,” she said. “We are actively involved in working to make sure that the program is a success; we asked for an extra CAD class, for example, and we got it. We are in many ways teaching the professors while we are learning from them.”
Temple’s program has provided Aniśko with numerous opportunities to work on real world projects with area communities as “clients,” such as working with a team to create a sustainable community revitalization plan for the Francisville section of Philadelphia while in the undergraduate program or creating a master plan for the Clearview and Folcroft Landfill Reclamation project for the Darby Creek Valley Association in Springfield, Montgomery County in her Public Lands Design Studio.
The Francisville Studio Project was the recipient of the 2011 National American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Honor Award in the Analysis and Planning Category in addition to receiving an Honor Award from the Pennsylvania/Delaware Chapter of the ASLA. Aniśko also received a 2012 PA/DE ASLA Student Honor Award in addition to several honors at the Temple University Ambler Academy Awards and Special Achievement Ceremony, including the Elizabeth Clarke Award for Conservation Education and the Emma Blakiston-Frances Lukens Book Award.
“It’s been an easy transition back to the classroom. I think I’m thriving even more than the first time around,” she said. “The first time it was a bit of a chore because it’s something I had to do. This time, it’s my choice and I want to do more than what is required because this is what I love to do.”
With her family and her children — Julia, 14 and Milek, 11 — the importance of education has been particularly emphasized, Aniśko said.
“We’re comparing grades,” she said with smile. “My husband has been very supportive — he really wanted me to do this — and my children are learning with me; they know all about native and invasive plants. I didn’t separate school from home. My children come along on field trips; my daughter Julia helped at (Instructor in Landscape Architecture and Horticulture) John Munro’s stream table at EarthFest.”
During the May 10 SED Graduation Ceremony, Aniśko said she will talk about her experiences within the program and highlights from the projects she has worked on “but really I want my talk to be a celebration of not myself, but of us, of our role as the first graduates in the Master of Landscape Architecture program.”
“I want to tell our stories,” she said. “We did this as a group, we succeeded as a group.”