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ahron lerman portfolio

socially & ecologically integrated design 413.519.7488 | |

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rain garden photo-simulation by Genevieve Lawlor for Winter Street Park, Spring 2011; project overview on pages 4-5

personal statement community greening local food production urban park residential design illustrated resume highlights

C ontents


P ersonal S tatement

As as landscape designer & planner, I creatively and practically rethink how we grow food & harvest energy, reclaim spaces to play & ride bicycles, reuse disregarded materials & blighted spaces, and regenerate our neighborhoods.

An honest design process weighs ideas profound & simple, and values opinions loud & quiet. By balancing goals with existing ecological & social conditions, I design landscapes that integrate people with the planet.


Parking Lot JCC Building

Since December 2011, I have worked with Springfield Jewish Community Center (JCC) leadership to design and begin rebuilding the JCC’s playground to integrate garden education spaces. I am also teaching inaugural garden classes to summer campers, elementary and middle school children, and to senior adults.


The JCC sits in the middle of Western Massachusetts Jewish life; the organization is both a physical and community neighbor to many regional Jewish organizations. As one of the JCC campus’s central outdoor areas, the playground is an underused resource—a space where local ecology, Israel education, and community building is starting to come together.


A large mulched area sits at the center of the playground. When outdated equipment was removed, nothing replaced it. In heavy rains mulch washes away; puddling rainwater has damaged the adjoining brick path.

Hand-drawn photosimulations, like the one above, helped JCC staff envision how the empty space may be redesigned to include raised beds, a seating wall, and shaded exploration space for found vegetables, bugs, and other garden curiosities.

Club 78, the JCC Summer Camp’s social actionminded seventh and eighth graders, helped set up the first raised beds. One of the 3-4 year-old groups helped plant the first tomato, which they named Meatball.

C ommunity G reening • S pringfield , M ass . • O ngoing , 2012

C ommunity G reening : A ction & E ducation


The new JCC Garden is located within the current fenced-in playground area, accessible by the children’s programs wing, or by multiple parking areas. The garden design is inspired by the four holy cities of Israel, and their associated elements: Jerusalem (fire), Tiberias (water), Hebron (earth), and Safed (air). The design identifies opportunities for Judaic and local ecological education in each “city” area.

Tzfat Tiberias


Pollinator Habitat

Jerusalem Hebron


ancient holy city

The playground’s shape is similar to the shape of the State of Israel, and the playground’s available spaces roughly match up to the relative locations of Israel’s four ancient holy cities: Tzfat, Tiberias, Jerusalem, and Hebron. These spatial relationships became the inspiration for the proposed playground design.



The Raised Beds


playground equipment

JCC building

2 work table


raised beds tool shed


compost bench 4

Matriarchs’ Orchard

The concrete pad where water currently pools is replaced by an orchard, honoring Judaism’s matriarchs, who are buried in Hebron. Fruit grown here is taken home for the New Year each fall. In accordance with Jewish tradition, a portion of these fruits are donated to local food banks. The central gazebo is refurbished and tables & chairs are added so that all can sit and enjoy the space.

ball game arena / outdoor classroom


Echoing the hills of Jerusalem, handicap-accessible raised beds grow vegetables symbolic of the element of fire. Tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables growing here are roasted in kid-made outdoor solar ovens. 4



Learning Waters

The Sea of Galilee, Israel’s largest source of freshwater, is symbolized here by the garden’s water spigot, where vegetables are washed. Tiberias was also the home of ancient Israel’s high court; a shaded work bench here creates space for deliberating over interesting bugs & flowers, and learning about new vegetables. playground outline

to main entrance

Tzfat’s airy mysticism and relatively cool climate is recalled here by a pollinator garden underneath the existing large oak tree. Students may catch sight of butterflies and hummingbirds through the classroom windows, and enjoy fragrant plants while outside. An existing ball game arena is transformed into a dual-purpose outdoor classroom.


fruit trees

C ommunity G reening • S pringfield , M ass . • O ngoing , 2012

Proposed Garden Design

Design Inspiration


As part of a three-person team, I co-wrote a plan exploring the possibilities for local food production in the Sonoran Desert community of Ajo, Arizona. Ajo’s one-way resource use, whereby goods imported to town or extracted from the ground are used and then disposed of, is unsustainable and has left Ajo vulnerable to markets thousands of miles away. By transforming this linear model into a circular one, resources can be shared among organizations; one group’s waste literally becomes another’s nutrients—be it manure and food scraps into compost, or waste water into irrigation.

A SONORAN OASIS Developing a Local Food System for Ajo, Arizona

Productive and ecologically-sound land use is achievable through modern adaptations Public input showed interest in local food of traditional Sonoran Desert farming and water management techniques that production, but residents also expressed maximize food production while respecting the limits of the desert.

h f ave ugh


nth rse ies.

concerns about land availability, poor soils, and water scarcity.



GIS Analysis

Much of the lands surrounding Ajo are federally owned and protected. Analysis of an average block in Ajo reveals an estimated 271 acres of open space in yards, vacant lots, and on road rights-of-way. By taking advantage of these spaces within town, Ajo can increase its food production.

Case Study

Design Recommendation

Ajo currently disposes of over forty-six million gallons of wastewater every year. Some sources of that quantity—like shower and laundry water—is safe to divert and reuse for fruit trees. The low-cost laundry machine greywater system in downtown Tucson pictured above irrigates five fruit trees, and can be easily replicated elsewhere.

Growing traditional Sonoran Desert crops like mesquite, tepary beans and squashes, and other arid land adapted crops—like pomegranate and olives (pictured above)—can help maximize food production, while minimizing outside inputs.

L ocal F ood P roduction • A jo , A rizona • W inter 2011

L ocal F ood P roduction : A S onoran O asis


Stages home scale


Community Food Production

neighborhood polyculture orchard

wild harvest

polyculture orchard & educational oasis at Ajo Regional Park

The farm outside town can support a variety of growing and harvesting styles. By increasing habitat for native species and adapting ancient farming methods, In this future vision for Ajo, the unique flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert coexist with a productive landscape, creating an oasis in harmony with ecological and hydrological processes.

BLM land

wastewater treatment & purification wetlands

Left: Minimizing water use in Ajo’s arid environment will help reduce financial and environmental impacts for food production. In particular, reusing wastewater presents a tremendous opportunity. Wetlands adjacent to the current wastewater facility can help treat and purify water, which then flows downhill to a commercial farm on a 320-acre tract of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land bordering a section of Ajo Regional Park that contains some of the area’s rare prime quality soils. Water not used for irrigation on the commercial farm continues into a lagoon in Ajo Regional Park (operated by Pima County). The lagoon provides wildlife, like migratory birds and the endangered Sonoran pronghorn, access to drinking water and the cover of wetland vegetation.

L ocal F ood P roduction • A jo , A rizona • W inter 2011

Wastewater Reuse Concept

Potential future path of wastewater through BLM lands and towards Ajo Regional Park


Urban Revitalization: Winter Street Park Winter Street in downtown Adams has suffered some neglect over the years. Basic infrastructure is crumbling and an under-used half-acre public green sits at its center. But the street has great potential: it sits between two commercial districts, the channelized Hoosic River, and the popular Ashuwillticook Rail Trail.

As part of a two-person team, I developed a plan to enhance Winter Street’s safety and beauty by allowing residents’ comfortable use of the green, and by planning connections with the river and the rest of downtown.

As evidenced from two public meetings that were held as part of the Winter Street project, the street has many supporters who are invested in seeing things change for the better.

The green is maintained by the town as a lawn; there are no formal pathways, seating, or vegetation. Parents encourage children to play on the green, which has served as the neighborhood kids’ unofficial yard, ballfield, and playground.

Proposed Park Cross Section

River Walk

The Winter Street Park

Street Trees & Sidewalk

Winter Street

Resident Parking

In the proposed design, Winter Street’s green becomes a central gathering spot for the neighborhood, with clear pedestrian paths and places for strolling, sitting, and playing. Framed by a shady meandering path along the river walls to the west, and street trees to the east, roughly a quarter-acre of green remains as open space for free play, picnicking, and potentially a future playground made of natural materials.

W inter S treet P ark • A dams , M assachusetts • S pring 2011

Winter Street Park Community Development Department Adams, MA


Hoosac Street Visitors Center



W t ee Str

reet Sum mer St


Park Str eet

Native shrubs, like Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina), stabilize and beautify a weedy bank on the east side of Winter Street. Sumac transplants easily into many soil types—including degraded soils typical of the urban environment. Sumac is known for its brilliant red foliage, and its fruits attract birds well into the winter.

uwi lltic oo


ail T rail


Town Hall

Shrub Planting

on a

Slope Detail

Hoosic River

remove at least top third of burlap corner of root system at line of original grade firmly compacted saucer gently compacted topsoil mixture: 12” all around ball, min. tamped admixture backfill

Ensuring that vegetation on Winter Street is planted correctly saves money on installation and maintenance costs, allowing the town to focus on broader downtown revitalization.

A park on Winter Street, with dedicated pedestrian connections to outlying areas, will integrate the street into Adams’ downtown neighborhood and make the street safer and more beautiful for residents and visitors. The above map suggests how formalized pathways might extend from Winter Street’s park to the commercial area of Summer Street to the east, and west to the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail.

W inter S treet P ark • A dams , M assachusetts • S pring 2011

Neighborhood Pedestrian Connections


Existing Conditions

oak woods

Dunnel Drive topsoil piles

The client recently built a solar-powered, super-insulated home at a community eco-village in rural Colrain, MA. The village is sited on an old apple orchard; remaining apple trees are among the valued community resources available. The client’s goals included: 1. Creating an edible landscape 2. Controlling erosion 3. Maintaining views 4. Accessing community resources 5. Creating privacy 6. Siting compost, cheese room drain, and a clothesline

disturbed soil

leach field

existing apple trees

existing old field vegetation


The client’s one-acre lot remains disturbed from recent construction. Little vegetation remains on the property to stabilize the disturbed, erosion-prone soils on the steep slopes.

R esidential D esign • C olrain , M assachusetts • F all 2010

Residential Design


edible hedge

R esidential D esign • C olrain , M assachusetts • F all 2010

Proposed Design

Slopes & Drainage Analysis

A small edible forest garden of densely planted fruits, berries, and herbs also partially shields the house from northeasterly winter weather. Its proximity to the house makes it easier to intensively manage than the proposed semidwarf fruit tree orchard further down slope.


A relatively flat terrace abuts the house, held close by a 1.5-foot-tall stone wall. The terrace is a great, convenient place for growing vegetables, hanging clothes to dry and enjoying the sunshine.

French drains under the house’s dripline collect rainwater off the roof and direct it to a small retention pond built into the terrace wall.


Slopes & Drainage analysis is just one of several site analyses done as part of the design process to help achieve the client’s goals to create an edible landscape that controls the flow of water, creates walking paths and protects desired views.

fruit tree orchard

The restoration meadow accepts the cheese room drain and pond overflow while stabilizing the steep mid-slopes. Micro-swales zig-zag water downslope, maximizing its infiltration into the soil and slowing its potentially eroding speed.

A walking path meanders downhill, connecting the client to the community farm and neighbors.



Alternative Spring Break Group Trip Leader Jewish Farm School, Austin,TX

Led a group of students from the University of Chicago on a working trip to Green Gate Farms in Austin, Texas. Facilitated students discussions about food systems, including production, distribution, consumption, and waste management. Demonstrated and taught organic farming techniques. (March 2012)

Exploring tomato plants with a nursery school group during the JCC garden’s initial planting in June 2012 Photo by Becca Coolong

Children’s Garden Designer & Educator Springfield Jewish Community Center, Springfield, MA

Redesigning the center’s playground and adding garden space that is accessible to the entire center membership; including senior and special needs groups, and youth programs. Teaching gardening classes in the Center’s after school program and summer camp to elementary and middle school-aged children; and to adult seniors as part of the Center’s new programmatic offerings. (December 2011-Present)


I llustrated R esume H ighlights

Many students enjoyed cooking with farm-fresh vegetables for the first time.

2011 Master of Arts in Landscape Design Conway School of Landscape Design, Conway, MA Completed a graduate program in ecological design and planning that emphasized natural systems, graphic communication, presentation skills, and teamwork. Developed proficiency with Adobe InDesign and Photoshop. Experience with Adobe lIlustrator, ArcGIS, AutoCAD, and Google Sketchup. (June 2011)

Hand-drafting and experiential learning—like digging & examining soil profiles—are keystones of the Conway School curriculum.


I llustrated R esume H ighlights

Dana Greenhouses Intern Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Boston, MA

Supported nursery and greenhouse production cycles to raise woody plants for distribution onto the grounds of the Arnold, and into other collections worldwide. Practiced plant care and propagation methods and became familiar with the plant inventory database, BG-BASE Collections Management Software. Passed Massachusetts State Pesticide Applicator Exam for Commercial Applicator License. (April-August 2010)

A couple of the Arnold Arboretum’s fine specimens: An Eastern redbud and a Bonsai cherry from the renowned Larz Anderson Bonsai Collection




Office Manager Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, Falls Village, CT

Managed all aspects of non-profit office at retreat center serving 10,000 guests annually; including maintaining accurate deposit records using Quickbooks software, coordinating mailings, and providing helpful information as the initial phone contact for inquiries and visitors. Improved environmental stewardship and resourcesaving initiatives. Led tours and wilderness hikes for guests and potential rental clients, drove guest shuttles. Filled in as needed for program and operations staff, including managing retreat registrations. (November 2007-April 2009)

During my free time, Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center’s trails and woods provided hours of recreation and inspiration.

The retreat center’s solar panels & fruit orchard powered the community in many ways.


Practiced biodynamic agriculture on a young vegetable farm. Prepped and planted new beds, and built new animal pastures. Harvested and prepared CSA shares, assisted in produce sales at local farmer’s market, and developed new farm revenue sources. Taught farming techniques to local school children. (November 2005-April 2006)

Moving sheep back to the main ranch from their mountain winter range

Ranch Hand Round Grove Ranch,Townsend, MT

Worked alongside ranchers at family-owned cattle and sheep ranch. Fed over 500 cows, horses, and sheep daily. Helped with birth, care, and documentation of newborn calves, and administered medicines as needed. Built and repaired wooden and barbed-wire fencing. (Winter 2007)

Farm-fresh citrus



I llustrated R esume H ighlights

Farm Apprentice Kona Biodynamic Farm, Kealakekua, HI


Intern Adamah Fellowship, Falls Village, CT

Participated in a three-month Jewish leadership training program that integrated experiential learning, organic farming, intentional community living, Jewish learning, and contemplative spiritual practice. (Fall 2006)

Brandeis Alumni Rugby Team photo by Alex Goldstein Some of Adamah’s chicken flock

Bachelor of Arts in American Studies Brandeis University,Waltham, MA Men’s Rugby Club (2001-2005)


Ahron Lerman's Portfolio  

landscape planning & design portfolio

Ahron Lerman's Portfolio  

landscape planning & design portfolio