At Bryn Mawr College, the Trees Speak for Themselves

“You will find something more in woods than in books.” —St. Bernard (1090 – 1153)

For an educational institute like Bryn Mawr College, the quote sends more than just a philosophical message. In an era of technology when even libraries can be virtually accessed off campus through websites and learning takes place online as much as in class, the college decided that campus trees should also get digitized. So to celebrate the end of classes for the semester and get energized for the exams week, Bryn Mawr students participated in an active outdoor project to re-label each of their campus’s trees with a unique QR code.

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A tree label with QR code

The idea is to invite people on campus, from students to visitors, to learn more about the trees through the advance of technology. Each campus tree has a label with a Quick Response Code (QR code), scan-able on any smart phone, which will then lead to a web page with detailed information about the tree. Previously, the labels only had the trees’ names on them, and even a tree enthusiast would find it hard to memorize the scientific name of a tree to look up and learn about it later. Now with these QR codes, these Bryn Mawr trees can finally speak for themselves.

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The Bryn Mawr campus in spring

“Each tree on campus carries a story and a piece of the college’s history behind it”, says Ed Harman, director of grounds at Bryn Mawr College.  “So we think that it is important to also provide students and visitors on campus with a chance to learn about the trees and appreciate them the same way we do our beautiful buildings.” The webpage for each tree linked with the QR code includes not only information about the type of tree and its characteristics, but also a story of how it came to Bryn Mawr. Some of the trees were gifts from a previous class, or a replacement of a class tree. Some are as old as 1900.

The QR code feature is not the first project organized to connect students with the campus trees and landscape at Bryn Mawr. Last year, the college and the students also completed designing a Campus Tree Map, and a tree tour using this map as a guide has been introduced to parents and visitors to Bryn Mawr campus. The college has been recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation as a Tree Campus USA for these outstanding student services project to promote more active student-tree relationship on college campuses.

Drew’s View: New Finds at a Favorite PA Garden

Back in August, PHS president Drew Becher received a call from Michael Callahan, executive editor of Philadelphia magazine. Michael needed new venues to shoot some of the magazine’s beautiful spreads and figured (correctly) that Drew could offer some promising leads.

Without hesitation, Drew listed a dozen or so locations—Philadelphia is the cradle of horticulture, after all. Before the conversation ended Drew even agreed to personally show Michael the gorgeous grounds of Chanticleer Pleasure Garden in Wayne, PA.

When the day arrived, the duo was joined by David Fierabend of Groundswell Design Group and Matthew Rodrigues, on-air entertainment and travel personality. Chanticleer’s Jonathan Wright and Bill Thomas agreed to give a guided tour.

As they traversed Bell’s Run Creek and the Teacup Garden, Michael was aghast that he’d never been to Chanticleer and regretted lost years of potential visits. Even Drew, a Chanticleer regular, was treated to something new: a woodland area with a bridge that resembles a fallen tree. “It was the first time I really explored that area,” Drew said. “It’s overgrown with towering trees—very cool.”

Despite the new experience, Drew’s favorite element of the 35-acre garden remains the terrace alongside the Chanticleer house. From there, one has a sweeping view leading to large pond. As Drew says, “It is picture perfect.”

Of course Michael took many pictures to share with his colleagues back at the office. So the next time Philadelphia magazine shows up in your mailbox, don’t be surprised to see Chanticleer! And if you want to see the pleasure garden for yourself, sign up for one of the many PHS-sponsored evening lectures and tours. Click here to learn more.

PHS in Venice: Sharing Stories on Greening a City

Last week we brought you part one of PHS’s epic adventure in Venice for the Biennale. This exhibition uplifting progressive thinking in urban design has allowed staffers Nancy O’Donnell and Linda Walczak to spread the PHS message far and wide. Read on!

Our next day at the Biennale proved just as interesting as the first few. Many of the pavilions were hosting openings, and the place was jammed with insiders. We spotted many celebrity architects, including David Chipperfield, the British architect who curated the Biennale. Other luminaries include Todd Williams and Billie Tsien, well-loved by Philadelphians for their work at the Barnes, and the Indian architect Anupama Kundoo.

The highlight of today was the series of “relays,” panel discussions held in the courtyard of the US pavilion.

1. Nancy was excited to be part of the “productive landscapes” panel…

1A. …but first we heard a discussion on public-private partnerships, and the many ways these can occur. Most every PHS initiative involves multiple partners, so this was great info to absorb.

2. At the Productive Landscapes Relay, Nancy engaged in a conversation with a broad range of people from across the country. Gordon Douglas, one of the exhibit curators, presided. Participants were from Denver, St.Louis, New Orleans, and San Francisco. Some were single guerrilla interventionists, while others were from larger firms or academia.

3. The vacant lands discussion was enlivened by the creator of the red swing project, Andrew from Austin. Since his is an anonymous project, that’s all the info we can share, Check out the website reswingproject.org.

4. Another great project was led by John Southern, of Urban Operations. His firm is taking back medians and turning them into green space in Los Angeles.

5. The cafe sported an op-art look. We chose to eat outside.

6. Sallie and Bert Korman, and their adorable grandchild Isabella, were spotted at a Venice watering hole. It was great to see a PHS member so far from home!

That’s it for now. If you’d like to read more about the U.S. pavilion and some of the other countries involved, click here.

PHS in Venice: Popping Up at an International Showcase of Urban Design

Two PHS staff members, Nancy O’Donnell and Linda Walczak, are in Venice, Italy to participate in a biannual exhibition of innovative urban design. The 2011 PHS Pop Up Garden is among an elite group of landscapes selected as an example of superior design for the modern city.

Nancy and Linda are busy representing PHS, collaborating with industry leaders, and sneaking in a pizza when possible! Below is a glimpse of their experience so far. 

After a rainy Sunday and a jet-lagged introduction to La Serenissima,  we woke up Monday to a warm, sunny day. A visit to the iconic Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark), was our first stop. San Marco is the patron saint of Venice, and his symbol, a winged lion, abounds in sculpture, mosaics, tapestry, and paintings. The next stop was the opening ceremonies of the Biennale. The United States Pavilion is located in a garden setting, Giardino. Several other pavilions were celebrating their openings as well.

1. Before arriving at the ceremony, we took a waterway tour of this glorious city. Our trip led us past the Accedemia bridge and many lovely palazzos.

2. Here is a view from the loggia of San Marco out to the lagoon. The two columns, dating from 1499, are topped by the winged lion depiction of St. Mark and a fisherman with whale and harpoon, standing on the dragon he has slain. When first erected they stood at the edge of the lagoon.

3. The United States Pavilion, a 1930s Palladian style structure, designed by Delano & Aldrich, nestled among the trees.

3A. Cathy Lang Ho, of the Institute for Urban Design, serves as the U.S. Pavilion exhibit organizer. Here she is making remarks about the selection of the entrants and the installation of the exhibit.

4. Nancy O’Donnell and the US Consulate General admiring the banners.


5 and 5A . Four rooms of project banners are hung in close proximity on a pulley system. When you pull a banner down, a weight with descriptive text on the side of the room goes up. The PHS Pop Up Garden weight read “Weedy Lot” and when lifted read below “Short vegetable commute.”

6. A “bar code” on the reverse side of the banner, shown as stripes of blue, green, chartreuse, pink, orange, and periwinkle depict the relative weight of different factors that each project effected: Each color represents different emphasis: community, ecology, economy,  pleasure, etc. Each project had a unique “bar code” reflecting the weight of each characteristic as specified by the project’s team.

7. The editor of Architect magazine presented the August 2012 edition of Architect magazine, which is the exhibit catalogue. Note the colorful “bar code” on the cover.

8. Anne Guiney, Director of the Institute for Urban Design, is the organizer and curator of  the United States exhibit.

9. An opening reception was held at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, owner of the United States pavilion. The Guggenheim supports the exhibition activities of the US. More to come!

2012 PHS Pop Up Garden Opens Today!

Today is a big day for PHS: the opening of our 2012 Pop Up Garden! If you’ve been by 19th and Walnut streets lately (on the northwest corner of Rittenhouse Square), you likely noticed a team in brown PHS t-shirts braving the heat and busily planting. All the hard work is worth it; we can’t wait to share our new temporary garden with you!

A celebration to mark the opening of the new garden will take place today (Friday, June 22 ) at noon. You are invited to attend and hear from special guests including Mayor Nutter; PHS President Drew Becher; Jane Golden, Executive Director of the Mural Arts Program; Jacqueline Gonzales of Chipotle Mexican Grill; and Timothy Abell, President of Firstrust Bank. Chipotle and Firstrust are official sponsors of the garden, and we so appreciate their support!

The garden address is 1905-15 Walnut Street. The regular garden hours are Tuesdays through Fridays, from 11 am to 2 pm; Thursday evenings from 5 to 7; and the second Saturday of each month from 9 am to 1 pm.

If you’re in the mood for some interesting reading, it seems as though the pop-up concept is popping up all everywhere. An article on salon.com discussed Chicago’s plans to combat asphalt with small green spaces citywide. A second story, this one from The Globe and Mail, focuses on pop-up architecture and how the concept encourages risk-taking and innovation.

See you at the garden!

Pop Up Garden Underway in Center City

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A vacant lot in the heart of Center City’s Rittenhouse Square neighborhood is being transformed by PHS into a temporary garden and gathering place, highlighted by a communal table that emphasizes the need for healthy food for all residents. The message of “bring everyone to the table” is the garden’s theme, and everyone is invited to get involved in the issue of food security, to connect with one another, and to bring their ideas, recipes, and urban gardening tips to the communal table.

PHS’s City Harvest program, which grows fresh produce through a network of community gardens and helps feed more than 1,000 families in need each week, is the focus of the garden that is sponsored by Chipotle Mexican Grill at 1905-15 Walnut Street.

A celebration to mark the opening of the new Pop Up Garden will be held Friday, June 22, noon to 1 pm. The public is invited to the opening ceremony and to visit the garden Tuesdays through Fridays, from 11 am to 2 pm; Thursday evenings from 5 pm to 7 pm; and the second Saturday of each month from 9 am to 1 pm.

We look forward to seeing you there—stay posted for a full calendar of special events, programs, and workshops.