This Philly landscape firm has been involved in ‘sustainable activism’ since Earth Day was created - Generocity Philly

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Apr. 21, 2017 12:52 pm

This Philly landscape firm has been involved in ‘sustainable activism’ since Earth Day was created

Andropogon's most recent work in the city is Bartram’s Mile, opening this weekend.

Bartram's Mile.

(Photo via twitter.com/AndropogonLtd)

Tomorrow is Earth Day, a time when we all are called upon to think and, hopefully, act upon what would make the world we live in a more environmentally healthy place.

Andropogon, a Philadelphia-based landscape architecture and ecological design firm that operates around the country, has been advocating for more nature-conscious design since the birth of the modern environmental movement in the 1970s. Fun fact: Earth Day marks the anniversary of the movement’s birth.

Founded in 1975, Andropogon has been involved in a whole slew of projects like the Morris Arboretum, which the firm has been involved with for around 30 years in planning and project implementation. These days, the firm has shifted toward working with more campus and urban environments, but its approach of “sustainable activism” remains the same.

The city’s new Bartram’s Mile, a mile-long bike and pedestrian trail along the Schuylkill River opening tomorrow as part of the Knight Foundation’s Civic Commons initiative? Andropogon took part in the concept and visioning phase for that project.

Michelle Jordan, a landscape designer at Andropogon, said a big part of the planning process for Bartram’s Mile involved hearing from community members to really figure out what they wanted and who would be using the space the most. The community connection is something that’s integral for all the firm’s projects.

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“I think it’s really important to know who your neighbors are — it helps tie you to a place,” said Jordan, who recently spoke at Temple University with a colleague. “I think it’s important to try to be connected to the place we live.”

Another key aspect to Andropogon’s work has also been trying to design spaces that engage and connect with the people around that space. Jordan is currently working on a restoration project of a stream corridor at Rowan University where the goal is to not only address things like stormwater runoff but educate students about the structure’s existence.

Jordan said education is always something the firm tries to accomplish when working with its clients — making sure the clients understand what it means to be environmentally or socially sustainable, in addition to having discussions on how best to achieve those goals in the most strategic way possible.

And that education can be achieved more easily through the adoption of a sustainability ratings system for landscape architects called SITES. Recently, it was announced that two architects from Andropogon will be included in the program’s inaugural group to earn their SITES professional credentials.

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With projects like Bartram’s Mile finally being completed, what else does a landscape designer like Jordan hope Philly works on?

She said she thinks the city’s school grounds, specifically the prevalent asphalt parking lots where kids are often playing, need to change. For one, temperatures getting higher means hotter pavement — but Jordan would also just like to see kids playing in more natural environments.

To Jordan, a big part of her work is making all spaces accessible to all people, which actually sounds pretty similar to what some Philly nonprofit leaders had to say about what activism needs to focus on in the city.

“In part, it’s going out there and doing work that is moving and pushing the dialogue forward in terms of better design,” she said, “design that’s better for the environment and the people, and allowing people to engage with those spaces.”

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