How did you find your current job? I worked as a playground designer for The Trust for Public Land for 3 years before getting my Master's in Landscape Architecture at Penn. After graduation, I worked for OLIN for a year developing OLIN LABS, and then had the opportunity to move to London. I ran my own research project in London, studying play behavior in 16 playgrounds and collected data on over 18,000 people. When I returned to the US, I founded Studio Ludo, a non profit with a focus on play research and design. I am currently the executive director.
What kind of work are you doing? I research play behavior and design playgrounds across the US. My work has been featured by The New York Times, Landscape Architecture Magazine, World Landscape Architecture Magazine, NPR, and the Atlantic. I also recently gave a Tedx in Philadelphia entitled "Never Too Old to Play: Rethinking American Playgrounds."
What attracted you to the firm or job? I think play is how we stay young and connected to each other. Play is universal. Even if people don't speak the same language, they can still play together. It helps us stay active, supports emotional, mental and physical development...and it's fun!
How did your education at PennDesign prepare you for your current tasks? PennDesign taught us to think outside the box and reimagine spaces and social norms. I also had the opportunity to develop and write the 100 year history book of the landscape architecture program with Richard Weller, which stretched my skill sets in research, graphics, writing, and project management, and gave me the confidence to try new things and be bold with my ideas.
Are there specific courses and instructors that influenced you philosophically? David Gouverneur was an incredibly supportive professor, friend, and mentor. I took his 600 level studio based in Philadelphia, and an upper level studio base in Harare, Zimbabwe. His thoughtful and passionate way of working as well as being present in the world and the communities in which he works is an inspiration.
Any top moment(s) of your education here? Building and rebuilding a physical model for my Philadelphia piers studio, out of piano wire, taught me how to fall in love with your designs, then rebuild them, never letting yourself get caught up in the perfection of any one idea. The team building nature of iteration always leads to a better result.
What’s next? We are currently the play consultant for the Riverfront Revitalization project, a 200 acre redevelopment for the city of Omaha. We are also about to embark on a 3 year study of 60 playgrounds in 10 cities across the US, funded through the National Institute of Health, that studies the impact of design on play behavior of all ages.
Are you keeping in touch with others from your class/the Penn community? Yes. Fellow students have become colleagues, and I often turn to the Penn community to hire within my own firm.
Any words of advice for prospective students? Stay true to your passion. You can build a successful firm based on your own unique interests, if you are willing to put in the time and effort. People are attracted to and support those that passionately believe in what they do.