2016 BSLA - Andrew Sargeant: The Art Of Community-Oriented Design

2016 BSLA - Andrew Sargeant: The Art Of Community-Oriented Design

Andrew Sargeant can trace his interest in landscape architecture and design to some of his earliest memories — a comprehensive set of Legos will do that to you.

Building upon his early creativity, day trips with friends to New York — located just minutes from his family home — provided him with a general understanding of the complexities of cityscapes and a desire to learn much more.

“I attended a magnet high school where I was able to take pre-engineering and environmental science classes. It was where I was introduced to the idea of landscape architecture as a career, which I felt was a marriage of the disciplines,” said Sargeant, who will graduate with a B.S. in Landscape Architecture. “I began to understand early on that everything we design, everything we build, has an impact. Sustainable design consequently can have a positive impact across the board — environmentally, economically, culturally, socially.”

After attending Rutgers University-New Brunswick for two years, Sargeant turned his interest toward the learning opportunities Philadelphia held. Temple’s Landscape Architecture program, he said, provided to be the perfect fit, providing him with the living laboratory of the Ambler Campus’ arboretum and the urban environments of Main Campus and its surroundings.

“(Landscape architect) David Rubin developed a philosophy of ‘empathy-driven design,’ the idea that design should be applicable to all walks of life, that it should be the best answer for everyone involved. That definitely resonated with me,” he said. “I’ve become particularly interested in urban design and community-oriented design in particular; I feel that’s where I can have the most positive impact.”

Philadelphia, Sargeant said, is currently enjoying a true resurgence, “with the most people moving back to the city in 20 years.”

“While Philadelphia has all of the critical concerns of any major city, in the neighborhoods that I’ve had the opportunity to work with through the landscape architecture program I’ve found a very strong sense of community and a great sense of stewardship,” he said. “As a landscape architect, I want to be able to actively engage with community members and organizations to ultimately achieve successful designs. As a student of landscape design and a resident of Philadelphia, I see myself as an important stakeholder and advocate for change in the city where I live and hope to pursue my career.”

Temple’s Landscape Architecture program places an emphasis on practicality, Sargeant said. Students engage in ample design-build experience and develop a deep knowledge of the plant material that is essential for any landscape design.

“In many cases, we’re working with real world clients, sites and neighborhoods that have tangible goals and constraints. We’re not drawing things out of thin air and I think that helps you become a better designer,” he said. “The teachers are phenomenal and they all have years of experience in the field. (Landscape Architecture Professor) Lolly Tai in particular has really influenced me as a person, designer and student — she pushes you to go beyond your threshold and brings out your best work.”

In Dr. Tai’s senior studio, Sargeant and his fellow students are currently working in collaboration with The Friends of Mount Moriah, “a volunteer organization that recently assumed responsibility for a forgotten 140-acre cemetery in Southwest Philadelphia.”

“We plan to publish not only our design interventions but also our extensive inventory and analysis of the project in the hope that Mount Moriah can use the document to attract new members and acquire grant funding,” he said. “While at Temple, I have worked on projects ranging from neighborhood master plans to community open spaces. Apparent in all these projects is the ideal that in order to shape livable communities, a landscape architect must truly understand the community through engagement and observation.”

Sargeant, President of the Landscape Architecture and Horticulture Association at the Ambler Campus, was also a member of the team that created 2015’s multiple award-winning “Star Power: Casts of Light that Stir and Spellbind” exhibit for the Philadelphia Flower Show.

“That was a project that truly took me out of my comfort zone. At the beginning, I didn’t even know what half of the tools were,” he laughed. “The Flower Show is unlike any other experience — we have to approach the project aesthetically, sustainably and economically. There is so much teamwork involved in order to take so many individual pieces and ideas and design and build all of that into one exhibit.” 

Sargeant’s dedication to honing his craft has certainly not gone unnoticed. He was recently named a 2016 University Olmsted Scholar in the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s national Olmstead Scholars Program. He was one of just 32 undergraduates from 57 universities across the United States and Canada to receive the distinction.

He has also received several awards and honors from Temple, most recently being recognized with an Alumni Association Award for “dedication, unselfishness and contributions to the department.”

Sargeant hasn’t kept his skills to just academic projects. His interest in community oriented design has provided him with opportunities “to engage in a number of community service projects within in the city,” he said.

“I led a service learning effort to renovate a community garden and outdoor classroom space in North Philadelphia. The goal of the project was to teach young children about the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables within the urban environment,” he said. “Philadelphia struggles with the issue of ‘food deserts,’ which prevents residents, especially young children, from obtaining affordable and nutritious food. It’s a disheartening reality but I remained optimistic — sustainable design allows our profession to address and hopefully help rectify societal problems within our communities.”

As he heads toward graduation, Sargeant has his sights set on completing the requirements for landscape architect licensure while beginning his professional career — he fully intends on staying within Philadelphia.

“The Landscape Architecture program is very well respected in the Philadelphia region and, I think, for good reason. My Temple experience has been great from start to finish — I’ve been able to take advantage of opportunities, gain valuable real world experience and work with clients that I don’t think would have been available to me in any other program,” said Sargeant, who also took advantage of Temple’s study aboard program to hone his craft at the Rome Campus in Fall 2015. “I think Temple as a whole has really pushed it to another level in recent years — I know I’m leaving with the skills to make a positive impact. I can wait to be a Temple alumnus!”

Article Written by Jim Duffy, MSEd Public Relations and Website Coordinator.  Temple University Ambler Administration Building 


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