A group of Temple students turned the 848-acre Hopewell Furnace National Historical Site into a 33-by-23-foot exhibit for the 2016 Philadelphia Flower Show. The exhibit, which was on display throughout the week-long show, won the National Park Director’s award for best interpreted design.
The exhibit was created by Junior Design Studio students in the department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture at Temple’s Ambler Campus, and it was titled, “After the Blast: Recollecting Roots and Resources at Hopewell Furnace.” The exhibit featured a root cellar, a water feature and a bell that could be rung by viewers.
The 2016 Philadelphia Flower Show, held from March 5-13, was themed “Explore America.” It featured exhibits of national parks and sites from throughout the country, like Valley Forge, Yellowstone and Yosemite.
Hopewell Furnace is located in Elverson, Pennsylvania, about 50 miles outside Philadelphia. Hopewell was chosen by the students and professors involved because of its proximity, making it easy for students to visit.
“[Hopewell Furnace’s closeness] gave us the opportunity to select local, native plants,” said Robert Kuper, an assistant professor of landscape architecture. “It also gave us the opportunity to go and visit the site—to walk around and get familiar with it and observe some of the materials and details you wouldn’t otherwise see if we selected a national park that’s far away.”
Hopewell Furnace was founded in 1771 by an ironmaster and boomed in the decades prior to the American Civil War. According to the National Parks Service, Hopewell Furnace was Pennsylvania’s second-largest iron producer by 1789.
The park now has 14 restored structures and 52 features on the “List of Classified Structures” by the National Park Service.
Eight students from the Junior Design Studio took part in the creation of the flower show exhibit. Christopher Onder, junior landscape architecture major, said he worked 35 hours a week for eight weeks to prepare it.
“It was a lot of long days and nights,” Onder said. “But it was well worth every minute because the exhibit came out looking better than I could have ever imagined.”
“Creating this exhibit taught me many lessons in being resilient and seeing the results of hard work,” he added. “[I] was thinking, ‘Your design is perfect,’ then finding out that the materials you thought you were going to use would not work for one reason or another, and not to give up on it, but to collaborate with your team members to come up with another plan to make it work.”
The exhibit featured 100 to 150 flowers. Students were inspired by moss and other vegetation they saw growing on the wooden roof of a house at Hopewell Furnace, as well as the size of the park’s big timbers and the color of a stove for melting iron from the park. These scenes were all incorporated in the final product, Kuper said.
“It’s pretty much what I envisioned,” said Mike LoFurno, an adjunct assistant professor in the Junior Design Studio. “A lot of the students didn’t quite visualize it the same way because they hadn’t really seen it all together because each part was constructed separately, and then it wasn’t together until Wednesday or Thursday when they started to see it as an experience all together.”
Temple has been featured in the Flower Show for nearly 40 years and has never won the National Park Director’s Award before, LoFurno said.
“This may be the first time afterwards I didn’t seek validation that the exhibit was good,” Kuper said. “I knew it was great.”
“I think we did the Hopewell Furnace justice.”
Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @gill_mcgoldrick.
Video by Abbie Lee.