Posted May 11, 2021

Tyler student aspires to help build city neighborhood

Tyler student Savina Echeverria is gaining firsthand experience in city planning as she works toward fulfilling her goal of creating more green spaces in urban neighborhoods. 

Image of Temple student Savina Echeverria
Photography By: 
Joseph V. Labolito
Landscape architecture major Savina Echeverria stands beside a chair that her junior-year Design Studio Build class built as part of a final project.

There are many components that go into city planning—from the homes and offices where people live and work, to the transit that drives daily commutes, and even the parks and gardens that offer space to gather and connect. For Temple student Savina Echeverria, Class of 2022, a future career is taking shape in not only conceptualizing those components, but in making sure local communities play a role, too. 

A landscape architecture major, Echeverria is passionate about developing urban environments that benefit city residents. Her experience growing up in an urban neighborhood close to Newark, New Jersey, and now living in North Philadelphia, has helped shape that passion. 

“A lot of people know Newark and it’s not considered to be one of the safest neighborhoods, but it’s also a place where people live and is a community within itself,” she said. “So I want to focus on areas like that that don’t get much attention and actually help them develop as a community.”

That background is also what drew Echeverria to Temple. She has since found a sense of community among her peers in the landscape architecture program, and within the tight knit community at Temple’s Ambler Campus, where she commutes for class.

“I knew that Temple is very much a people’s university and it’s very geared towards helping communities from all types of backgrounds, so coming from an urban background myself I felt represented in all the right ways,” she added. 

In her three years at Temple, Echeverria has been able to explore her interests firsthand, combining knowledge learned inside the classroom with hands-on experience in real-world settings. One of those experiences allowed her to gain an understanding of city planning in real time, working directly with city officials on revitalization efforts for a neighborhood in Upper Darby, an urban township that borders Philadelphia. 

As part of the project, Echeverria worked with classmates to identify potential green spaces in the neighborhood and offered design suggestions for a park and other outdoor areas. The city decided to take those ideas into consideration and has since worked with another class of Temple students to continue the project, Echeverria said.

“It was a really awesome experience because it was like we were actually doing the work as a career,” she added. “As someone who wants to focus on urban areas, doing this project was confirmation that I really do like city planning and development.”

Living in North Philadelphia has also inspired Echeverria, who hopes to one day focus on the neighborhoods that surround Temple’s Main Campus. She envisions creating more green spaces in those areas in ways that allow the community to get involved, too. 

“My goal is to focus on finding ways to not only utilize abandoned spaces, but create spaces that benefit the community,” she said. “Whether it's gardens established and built by the community, plaza spaces where all the plantings are done by the neighborhood, or taking an abandoned building and creating a homeless shelter.”

For now, Echeverria is applying for internships in the area so she can get a true feel for working in the city. The professor who led the Upper Darby project, Eric Tamulonis, has been helping her identify leads, and recently introduced her to another source of inspiration—one that hits close to home.

“There’s this woman who was born and raised in El Salvador, the country my parents are from, and she became a landscape architect and now works in the West Coast area,” Echeverria said. “My professor sent me an article about her and I looked into it and thought it was really cool, especially as a woman of color. It really makes me feel seen and heard.”

Echeverria’s experiences only grew this last year, when she helped design an outdoor classroom as part of her junior-year Design Build Studio class. While the class typically focuses on creating an exhibit for the Philadelphia Flower Show, students instead worked together to design a structure that, if approved and built, would take the shape of a discovery zone on Ambler Campus, complete with insect hotels, gardens and a bat house for the community to explore. 

“This is a pretty unique and new experience,” Echeverria said. “Temple really makes sure you understand teamwork, diverse designs and all the options there are with being a landscape architect, which I appreciate greatly.”

—Tori Addison