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Blueprint for the Future

Written by Sara Webb

Andreas Jonathan '14

Growing up in an urban environment, Andreas Jonathan ’14 had never been camping or hiking. But during his first year at Ithaca College, he ended up in the woods at night, blindfolded, finding his way back to campus just by listening. It was all part of the Environmental Sentinels course, an innovative, hands-on learning experience in which students use wilderness awareness and survival skills to learn about local natural history and ecology.

“The purpose was to discover what you’re trying to save,” said Jonathan, who started his college career as an environmental studies major before switching to architectural studies.

"I think cities will be the battleground for sustainability in the future.” - Andreas Jonathan '14

“Andreas was apprehensive about the prospect of four-hour stints in all kinds of weather in our outdoor classrooms in the [Ithaca College] Natural Lands,” said Jake Brenner, assistant professor of environmental studies who taught the Environmental Sentinels course. “But he dove right in, approaching his field work with enthusiasm and an open mind.”

Since then, Brenner said, Jonathan has developed into an impressive scholar on landscape architecture and urban design with a sophisticated understanding of the interface between nature and the built environment.

Though he maintains an interest in environmentalism, Jonathan wanted to combine his desire for a sustainable society with his interest in architecture. As cities continue to expand and climate change continues, Jonathan wants to help strike a balance between urban growth and environmentalism.

“We’re living in a world that is very quickly urbanizing. There are a lot of mega-cities continuing to grow, and I think cities will be the battleground for sustainability in the future,” Jonathan said.

“What I love most about architecture is that it’s so much more than building and construction,” Jonathan said. “There’s history, theory, stakeholder relations, and social and environmental consequences. It struck me that anyone working in design professions must constantly be balancing, learning.”

In his four years at IC, Jonathan did just that. As a sophomore, he secured an internship with the Institute for Urban Design in New York City. He joined the institute’s project team for the Venice International Architecture Biennale, an event where architects and designers from around the world showcase themed designs. The U.S. theme was “spontaneous interventions” —  designing to solve urban problems and create new opportunities for the public. The summer before his senior year, Jonathan took part in a month-long academic program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture in New York City, which included studio visits and lectures by visiting professors. There he was exposed to the kind of work he will be doing as a graduate student.

Jonathan started this fall in the University of Pennsylvania’s master of landscape architecture program, where he will be able to foster his passion for both the environment and architecture.

“You are thinking about these constructed spaces that are designed and built to meet certain needs. But at the same time, you are thinking about them in terms of how they’ll change,” Jonathan said.

Jonathan will be the first in his family to attend graduate school. In fact, neither of his parents — who emigrated with a five-year old Jonathan from Nigeria to America — finished college.

“My father got as far as high school,” Jonathan said. “And my mom didn’t go to college at home [in Nigeria] but attended a business and secretarial school here [in the U.S.] when I was younger. From the very beginning, they wanted me to go as far with my education as I could.”

Jonathan said he’s excited to begin his master’s program but hasn’t forgotten the lessons he’s learned during his time at Ithaca College. "It’s been very easy for me to find people who care about my future,” he said. “I learned about architectural studies by speaking with professors in the [Ithaca College] art history department.”

The faculty in the art history department awarded him the 2014 Art History Prize at Ithaca College, recognizing him for his outstanding achievement and citizenship as an architectural studies major.

“Looking back [at my choice in colleges], I think that I made the right decision and that this is exactly where I should have gone,” Jonathan said. “I’m the person I am today because of the people I met here and the experiences that I had here, and I would not be the same person had I gone anywhere else.”



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