Spring Classes Begin!

Hi again all!! I know I have been a bit silent recently. I am happy to be back however and have sooooo many stories to share! In the next week or two I’ll be recapping the major highlights of the last semester as well as the whole career/job section of this blog.

In more current news I am back in architecture for a semester. A semester which started well before the actual first day of class! Every year students entering 602 architecture, second year-second semester, are required to complete an anonymous portfolio for the Dales Competition. The Dales is an in house portfolio competition judged by faculty of the architecture department with winners receiving money prize for travel. The competition has a few key rules: every portfolio must be anonymous (no names anywhere, we are given numbers upon turning it in and are kept listed in a spreadsheet), a travel proposal must be included for travel outside the U.S.A., and it should be predominantly work completed at Penn (outside work may be included but it is typically not) fitting the template given (8.5×11 sheets). Portfolios were due by 10 AM on the very first day! Which means that much of winter break was spent editing project work, looking over layouts, and dreaming of all the wonderful places to go see in this world. And then getting a budgeted reality check. The Dales has a fluctuating monetary prize ranging from $1500-5000. The prize winner(s) are announced at a evening event TBD. Winners are released the funding once travel has been purchased (flights, boats, trains, etc) and are expected to travel to planned destination.

I am dreaming of a trip to Mexico. The place my boyfriend spent half his childhood growing up in and the other half missing. Where ancient ruins abut everyday life and ancient traditions, like building the chinampas of Xochimilco Park, are maintained. Mexico also holds a number of projects which I initially researched as part of an architecture studio in 2015 which completely changed the course of my career. After that research and that studio I had decided that I needed to study Landscape Architecture. While I still feel caught somewhere between the two, Landscape and Architecture, I am very happy to have the opportunity to study both. I trust the skills I have gained here will help me design a more integrated nature and city. A hybrid which hopefully will have some positive impact on a livable world.

So with a lot of clicking and a little daydreaming the semester began!

This semester I am in an architecture studio, taking an architecture elective on buildings and water, professional practice 1, a planting detailing class for landscapes, and media for landscape.

For dual degrees I highly recommend talking to both offices about your schedule and asking for the spreadsheet they use to keep track of what courses you need to take ASAP. I really wish they had given me that sooner(somehow I always got something else and not this version). I have done fine, but it would have taken some of the stress and pointless email coordination out of the equation. But with a little more effort I was able to get everything settled.

In addition to the regular 5 credit course load I am very excited to be a part of LA+ working on the next issue. I won’t say anymore there but if you haven’t already checked it out I highly recommend it! LA+ is a landscape architecture journal focusing on unique fields cross section with landscape, to learn more: https://laplusjournal.com/

I look forward to what this semester brings and hope that sharing it, and the recent past, with all of you will be helpful to your own journeys! Til the next story!

Externship 2020

Back and better than ever, this year the externship program has expanded to include several landscape architecture firms. I am very excited for everyone who was placed in an externship. 75 students competed for only 30 positions!

Like last year the crunch to complete and submit all materials was intense. Portfolios, resumes, and statements of interest needed updating. Firms needed to be researched. Making the firm list was probably the hardest part. Remember research shouldn’t be left to the end, make time to figure out what each place stands for, what work they do, how it fits you, and who you know that might be able to tell you more.

All in all once it’s in nothing more can be done but wait. And wait anxiously. It was made clear early on that externship positions would be given first to students that hadn’t participated before.

I know when I first did mine last year I was so grateful for the experience. Having had only my school experiences to reflect on and market during internship searches I found it difficult to compete with people who had worked in offices and knew exactly what they were in for. Thankfully these positions were given first priority to students without a previous externship (and hopefully without previous internships).

To those accepted: dress nice, be in time, and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Ask, ask ask away! It’s the one time you will have the least amount of responsibility, liability, and pressure to know everything and can really catalog what you need to work on. Don’t just coast.

So while I wait on a waiting list I will plan out an alternate break. Maybe while at home I can shadow some local firms. Or perhaps I can set up my own externship and get to know more about landscape architecture. Should those plans fall through I will at least have been prepared to apply early for internships this summer!

Career Fair 2019 and Beyond!

Career Fairs are excellent ways to get into contact with the many professionals realizing the worlds potentials. While most people attending career fairs are in search of an internship or job I would suggest that it is an excellent conversation ground to learn more the state of your field. If you are there simply to mix and mingle though try going towards the end when your conversation time isn’t compromising another’s opportunity to secure a future.

As fun and simple as the career fairs structure may be preparation is key! Try to prepare at least 4 weeks prior to the career fair with the goal of being completely ready 1 week before the fair. Here are a few tips to help you get ready for the career fair:

Submit your portfolio and resume in advance. PennDesign compiles a booklet of resumes and portfolios for firms to prescreen allowing interviews to be scheduled in advance on the date of the career fair. If your college doesn’t do this try applying to firms that may be at the fair at least 2 weeks before. This allows enough time to hear back from the firm and potentially schedule to meet them at the fair. Both you and the firm will appreciate the use of already scheduled employment search time to complete the standard interview step.

Update yourself across all platforms. Once you’ve sent in your new resume and portfolio make sure to update the platforms through which people are going to get to know you first, think LinkedIn, Handshake, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, your personal website. At the very least these sites should have your most recent photo and any revisions to your bio or work/classes/skills.

Watch for emails or phone calls. Some firms may begin scouting and reaching out in advance of the career fair. If you have been preparing and are updated across all platforms in the 2 weeks prior to career fair then you can expect to hear from someone.

Plan early on to clear your schedule. You’ll appreciate having the full day free. The time can be used to prepare, schedule in interview time, and mingle after the event. However you end up spending the time it will allow you to relax and focus more without a million other deadlines all for the same time you’d planned to spend on your future.

Read up, plan questions, and think ahead. Your college should release a list of attending firms. Use this list to do some basic research on all the firms. By doing this you’ll learn a lot about your field but also how to spend your time at the fair. Which firms attracted you the most? Why? What kind of work do you want to do or learn from? Are there already open positions you can apply for?

Prioritize. Now that you’ve done your research make a list. Write out the firms you want to speak with, the questions you have for them, and your goals for any position you plan to hold.

Ultimately a connection is the best thing to make! You may not get an internship or job offer but you hopefully have made some new connections and discovered more about your field. From these conversations consider what you could improve, know more about, or keep doing to pave the path towards a your preferred future.

PIWA’s Mentorship Program

A lot can be learned from a mentor, particularly one in a position you have yet to be in.  This past year I joined PennDesign’s PIWA Mentorship program. I hoped that I might learn something about the field of architecture and the internship search process that I hadn’t learned through my own research.

My mentor was extremely kind, very available, and super helpful! I am glad that I did speak with her several times throughout the semester. She helped review my portfolio, talk about the job application process, and general ideas for keeping in the loop in the field.

I found her most helpful in the decision process. I was nervous to ask about wages, about assistance with relocation, about taking time to decide which offer to accept. My biggest fear had to be that by pushing too much in any of these areas I might offend or close doors before I had even fully opened them. What I learned is that it is all open negotiation. People can’t know that you need time unless you ask. It is okay to have options. Respect the time that you are given, be prompt to reply, courteous in your writing, and try to keep everyone up to date. Once you have accepted something don’t waste others time. Let people know you appreciate the follow up but have accepted another offer. If you are really interested in the firm despite accepting another offer,  consider expressing this interest and mentioning future availability should they call.

I don’t believe that you need to go out and adopt a mentor at every single place. Certainly though there is lots to learn from those around you particularly those excited to teach. It was wonderful to have a such an amazing person to speak with!

I plan to participate in the Mentorship program again this year and look forward to what I will learn! As well I have rejoined M.Arch Mentors, a student led organization which pairs incoming students with returning students to welcome and help people settle in. I can’t wait to get to know my mentee and hopefully help her achieve her goals at Penn this year!


Summer Reading

This list will be updated as I find more resources worth pursuing.

Summer is a chance to explore ones own interests outside of class requirements. There are many ways to explore an interest, one good way is to read up on it.

Any Google Search can pull up list upon list of potential summer reads. Below I have listed a few that have caught my attention:

-Women Write Architecture: My PIWA Mentor forwarded this list to me. It is extensive and supports a double agenda, good reads for fun and supporting women researchers/writers. https://womenwritearchitecture.wordpress.com/2017/09/15/first-blog-post/

-The Dirt (ASLA): This is a list of popular books for landscape architects published in 2018. Yes it is a year old but certainly relevant. https://dirt.asla.org/2018/11/28/best-books-of-2018/

-The Field: This is a landscape architects blog that has a list of good reads from 2016. Yes it is 3 years old but again still relevant. https://thefield.asla.org/2016/12/13/required-reading-for-landscape-architects/

-The World Landscape Architect: This has a 2018 holiday reading list. https://worldlandscapearchitect.com/books-for-your-holiday-reading-list/#.XO3TBohKhPY

-Arch Daily: 116 books for architects to read from 2018. This site is also generally good for daily articles and up to date news on buildings as the are designed and built.  https://www.archdaily.com/901525/116-best-architecture-books-for-architects-and-students

If books are a bit too long for you there are a number of magazines and blogs which provide wonderful shorter format content. Below is a list of content to consider:

– Arch Daily: https://www.archdaily.com/901525/116-best-architecture-books-for-architects-and-students

-Landscape Architecture Magazine: https://landscapearchitecturemagazine.org/

While summer leaves many of us with a little more time to read it may not be everyone’s thing. The world of podcasts is a fine in between. I haven’t listened to many but have begun to search for a few to try:

– The Obssessed Show: This is both a podcast and a list of competing but equally interesting podcasts. I have yet to listen to them but there are a few here that are on my list for morning walks to work. https://www.obsessedshow.com/best-design-podcasts

-Matters: another design blog with some suggested podcasts for starters to check out. It is always nice to see people suggesting the same podcasts. Gives starters a place to really get introduced and then go off the beaten path. https://medium.designit.com/the-best-design-podcasts-for-summer-listening-160ebcf06cf7?gi=80f13d31bf20

However you choose to consume information, summer is an excellent time to pursue your interests through formats a little too time consuming for a regular semester.


Architect’s Weekend Out


Falling Water: https://fallingwater.org/

Ohiopyle State Park: https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/FindAPark/OhiopyleStatePark/Pages/default.aspx

Flight93: https://www.nps.gov/flni/index.htm

Falling Water is a classic house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The number of times this house alone is mentioned in a school setting makes it one of the top buildings on any architects travel list. I probably would never have considered a visit if I hadn’t been inundated with the praises and wonders of Frank Lloyd Wright from the minute I looked to Architecture as a possible career path.

I had my reservations about this design. As much as anyone can sing its praises I wasn’t convinced. I am very glad that a friend of mine organized and invited me along to explore Falling Water and the towns and roads along the way.

Ultimately I left liking the design. Not everything is perfect. It has a fair number of failures built in such as the odd arrangement of patios to windows. I mean who puts a master suite patio directly adjacent to a guest room where the guest room window has full view of the patio? No screens, no plantings, just full unrestricted view to a supposedly private space as master suites and attachments usually are. Then there are odd details which are lovely but probably not so good for the building. The front entry, inside the building, has a nautral rock, kept in place, with a spring that occasionally spills inside. This spring or rainwater overflow is not restricted but just trickles and puddles in the interior. If water is seeping in this way I don’t want to think about how water is entering the rest of the buildig and structure at all the other natural/existing connection points.

But there are also lovely details. The corner windows which all open up the entire side of the building allowing the owners to control airflow. The acoustic control of the waterfall sounds being more screened in some places, less in others, and being able to augment it through windows. The tidy details of stairs and ramp covers that by design mimic waterfalls during heavier rains which I find so enthralling and really wish I had seen in action.

Overall, there are many things to learn from a visit to Falling Water. Even if you leave less than impressed with the building the drive to and from it is stunning, the nearby town of Ohiopyle has a wonderful park and falls that are very fun to explore, and ultimately Pittsburgh isn’t too much further away. There is something for everyone around there, I’d be surprised if anyone could leave the area completely annoyed at a loss of time.

After a wonderful day exploring both architecture and landscape, the Ohiopyle State Park has many fossils, trails, and fun falls!, we hit the road again. Purely by chance we stayed the night in a town just outside the Flight 93 Memorial. It hadn’t been on our list of visits for this trip but since we were there we decided to check it out. The site is massive and the memorial comes up unexpectedly. We happened to be there on a very cold and rainy day so limited our explorations considerably. I think a stop in the visitor center is absolutely necessary to fully understand each element of the design. Some of the details escape you if you aren’t told their significance. For example there are 40 memorial groves in half the circle’s design. When driving past them it is unclear that there are 40 separate but connected groves and rather looks like a semicircle of very young trees, probably for aesthetics or to construct a view. While missing this detail isn’t likely to ruin the memorial experience I think it would make a stronger impact to know and see. To appreciate every detail of honoring the lives of those lost.

Finally our last stop was in Amish Country just outside Philadelphia. Sadly we came in on a Sunday and most everything was closed. We did however see many horses and buggies going about. Farm country is just beautiful to be around.

Altogether a lovely trip with many surprises and wonderful learning moments! I highly recommend the trip with good friends and an open mind.

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Sally Week: Urban Hopes

PhillyEarth: https://phillyearth.org/

Village of Arts and Humanities: http://villagearts.org/

Phildelphia Orchard Project: https://www.phillyorchards.org/

Day five was unexpected. I knew we would be focusing on more city systems but wasn’t ready for what we came into contact with. I found the work being done in the North Philadelphia around Germantown and Temple University area really meaningful. It was inspiring to hear the stories of the area and the mini battles which the neighborhood is fighting to keep its place.

It is so sad to see Philadelphia systematically ignoring the neighborhoods requests and allowing the area to fall into disrepair to benefit developers. I believe it isn’t that the city doesn’t talk between departments but rather it talks between departments for specific entities. Temple’s expansion and the developers pushing it forward are the entities which push this government forward at the expense of Philadelphia history. Why developers can’t incorporate neighborhood history and meaning into the work they do is beyond me. These areas have so much to offer which would enrich any incoming population that infills. Regardless of the carelessness of others the work being done in the area was fascinating. Even the small urban farm which was educating local students was touching. I can only hope that I have time either this summer or upcoming year to visit again or volunteer and learn the tactics behind this localized redevelopment plan.


The images below depict personal neighborhood stories and cultures being assembled to benefit a community and not an individual. They represent christian, muslim, and african cultures and beliefs. The presence of angles, priests, gods, and kind spirits to oversee and guide are central to the work in place. These hopeful motifs are inspiring and deserve better care than the city has shown.


Sally Week: A Bird’s Farm Song

Rushton Preserve: https://wctrust.org/rushtonwoodspreserve/

Day four was delightful. The class traveled to Rushton Preserve to observe both the catching and banding of birds and a tidy urban farm nestled into habitat and research.

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The process of catching, tagging and releasing the birds was something I had never seen before. The bird nets were so light I couldn’t believe that they held such vigorous birds. But sure enough as we made the rounds through trails and past nets the birds were held quite safely.  Everyone seemed really happy to see, pet and help release the birds. I was surprised by how soft the were. I had attempted to release a Cat Bird which squacked so painfully when I went to hold its neck that I released it in fear I hurt it. Clearly its scare tactics work and it flew away happily.

The farm was quaint and I have happily added the free plants we received to my window garden. The following lunch was perfect and the kickball game clearly more telling of group dynamics than probably any field trip. Our class definietly needs to play kickball again sometime soon!

Sally Week: A Snake’s Tale

Day three was long only due to the soreness from Day Two’s hike. We went many places this day of which I will only discuss two. I cannot discuss the wonderful things we saw and learned about the wildlife in this area to protect them from others. As such no photographs will be included or linked to this post.

The first trail through the swamp was delightful but clearly not good for the general public. I never anticipated that beavers could create such damage remotely. The beaver deceiver device was intriguing. This device essentially is a hidden pipe embedded within the dam which diverts water from one side to the other avoided detection and removal by the beaver. It would have been nice to be able to see it or the dam particularly as examples of water edges and water ecosystems greatly disrupted. While we didn’t see beavers we did hear a multitude of birds, a wonderful introduction for Day Four, and interacted with a number of snakes.

Soon after our wander through the swamp we came across a series of pine forests. Some of these were intact and other patches had undergone controlled burns. I was surprised that despite the controlled burn so many creatures and plants were showing back up in those areas. I understand that overtime that is what will happen in a controlled burn area but everything there seemed so freshly burned it really made an impression. The pine trees had cute little green sprouts and all around blackened pine cones made the perfect natural charcoal to create patterns with.

Of this day I made only patterned sketches from the charcoal bits.

Sally Week: A Day of Revitalization

The Lehigh Gap Nature Center: http://lgnc.org/

Day two was a day of difficult terrain. The class traveresed up the mountainside of a superfund site. This location, once barren, had been brought back to life and is now a thriving parkland with many trails. Of these trails the one up over the ridge is quite spectacular but physically draining.

The superfund site, ie the Lehigh Gap Nature Center,  hosted a number of test plantings. The whole site was a sort of farm blanket of test patches for plants and their corresponding animals attracted and their ability to thrive and clean up a toxic place. Perhaps in future the Lehigh Gap Nature Center employees can discuss more in depth the planning and data collection of these sites.

It seems like an amazing asset to have a nature center at the site of a clean up particularly to revitalize not only the natural elements of the area but also the social elements. More superfund sites should consider the social and economic impacts and results of successful clean ups.