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An artist's rendering shows the design of UD's "Urban Amsterdam" exhibit for the Philadelphia Flower Show.
Before the University of Delaware’s Resident Ensemble Players wrapped their God of Carnage and Waiting for Godot
shows in fall 2016, Stefanie Hansen, associate professor in the theatre
department, provided students involved with the 2017 Philadelphia
Flower Show design project an opportunity to tour the sets and see what
could be re-purposed.
Aspects of those sets have now been transformed into an urban
Amsterdam exhibit — the overall theme of this year’s Philadelphia Flower
Show is “Holland Blooms” — that focuses on green infrastructure and
storm water management and is outfitted with a green roof, a sidewalk
rain garden, a green wall full of plants and permeable paving which
helps cities cut down on storm water runoff.
One end of the exhibit is a landscape architect studio and the other
is a flower shop, with urban outdoor architecture features like
planters, a bike lane and street lights making up the surrounding space.
The end product — the seventh consecutive year a team from UD has had
an exhibit featured in the show — will be on display for the duration
of the flower show, March 11-19, in the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
Hansen, who worked on the project last year as well, said that being able to re-purpose the theatre sets was a big benefit.
“It was fun not only being able to keep some things out of the
dumpster but also to know the scope of this could be useful with what we
already had,” said Hansen. “I think this year we’re saving quite a bit
of time and money on what we’re able to do so it can be bigger and more
fleshed out than it might have been if we started from scratch.”
Jules Bruck, associate professor of landscape design in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences
in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) who has
been involved with the UD exhibit at the flower show since the
beginning, said that having Hansen’s expertise in building lightweight
theatre sets has been a huge help this year.
“In previous years, all of our structures were meant to last in the
outdoor landscape after the show, but they were heavy and difficult to
move. The great thing about working with Stefanie is we were able to
upcycle the lightweight props from the theatre productions. It makes
more sense for us to use the theater sets for the show because we can
move them easily and we don't have to see the chiropractor for the rest
of our life,” said Bruck.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
The UD team prepares its exhibit, focusing on green infrastructure in an urban setting, for the flower show.
The exhibit has been put together by an interdisciplinary group of UD
students and faculty members. Some are working on the exhibit as part
of a Design Process Practicum class taught by Bruck, others as members
of the Design and Articulture (DART) student organization, and still
others through the new landscape architecture major.
Bruck said that one of the messages of this year’s exhibit is that all plants are welcome.
“We’ve cultivated some common 'weeds' to put up on the roof to show
the variety of plants that are part of the urban environment. We call
them weeds - it's a human construct. Many plants we consider weeds are a
beneficial part of the environment. If it can grow in a crack in the
sidewalk in the city, it’s a pretty tough nugget, and we need to rethink
how we label it,” said Bruck.
Anna Wik, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil
Sciences, said that the roof will be planted with “things that are
typically thought of as weeds mixed in with bulbs to give it this wild
look. They’re mostly weedy grasses and we will be using some
strawberries. Weeds are part of the urban environment and something that
we have to know about.”
Students in the Design Process Practicum class last year spent the first part of the class helping build the exhibit for 2016 and then spent the second portion of the class developing ideas that eventually became the design for this year’s flower show.
Austin Virdin, a senior in CANR, was part of the group whose design
was chosen to represent UD this year and he said that it has been a
rewarding experience watching the design come to life.
He also said that having the assistance of Hansen has been a huge help.
“We’ve been able to use pieces from past shows the theatre department
has put on that have become the walls of the exhibit and a lot of the
materials have been re-used from those shows, she’s been a great help. I
know we would not have been able to have this year’s exhibit be as
large of a structure if she wasn't helping with the build,” said Virdin.
Virdin said that the interdisciplinary aspect of the class is beneficial and helped to inform the design.
“In my group that proposed this design concept, I worked with a
psychology major and a computer science major, coming from different
backgrounds and perspectives really makes the class more engaging in my
opinion. I get a lot more out of the design process when there’s people
who think and work differently than I do,” said Virdin.
Tess Strayer, senior in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment
and president of DART, said she is hoping that visitors to the exhibit
take its green infrastructure messaging home with them.
“I think it’s something we can incorporate into our lives on a daily
basis. Green roofs aren’t hard and we just installed pervious paving at
my home for my driveway. It’s little things that you can do around your
house to make your home more sustainable, your life more ecofriendly,”
Wik has been working on the flower show for the first time in
different capacities and has been involved in the bulb forcing — along
with students Carin Prechtl and Serena Wingel, both juniors in CANR –
and members of the Fischer Greenhouse staff, including Bill Bartz,
greenhouse manager, and Rodney Dempsey, horticulture greenhouse
Wik said that they are using commonly forced bulbs in the exhibit,
such as hyacinths, tulips and daffodils, as well as some less often used
bulbs like allium and camassia, and that they decided to select plants
that are ornamental but also provide ecosystem services, specifically
those that would do well in a rain garden environments.
The landscape architecture studio is loosely modeled off of renowned
landscape designer Piet Oudolf's studio interior. Oudolf recently
finalized a meadow design for the Delaware Botanic Gardens (DBG) at
Pepper Creek near Dagsboro, Delaware.
“We wanted a Dutch aesthetic, and then we realized we might be able
to showcase some of his recent local work, as well,” said Bruck.
Bruck reached out to Rodney Robinson, a UD alumnus and DBG board
member who is with Robinson Anderson Summers Inc. (RAS), to ask if it
would be possible to highlight the new project by including it as a prop
in the architect studio.
Sheryl Swed, the executive director of the DBG, responded to the
request and said, “The opportunity to partner with Jules and talented
students to highlight the exceptional master plan that RAS has just
completed, to introduce the Delaware Botanic Gardens to the Philadelphia
Flower Show audience and to feature Piet Oudolf's DBG meadow design, is
just the kind of synergy and mutual support that is the hallmark of the
For more about the Philadelphia Flower Show, including hours and ticket information, see the website.
Article by Adam Thomas; photos by Wenbo Fan