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“The Unbroken Circle” Evokes Memories for Landscape Architecture Student Duo

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“The Unbroken Circle” by Wilson Lee and Tom Wenner

After completing their final exams for the spring semester, most students headed for home, vacation or the start of a summer job. Wilson Lee and Tom Wenner, incoming third-year landscape architecture students, had different plans—they entered an international competition. Their entry, “The Unbroken Circle” earned them both a High Commendation and a second place in the People’s Choice category at the SLANT Open International Landscape Design Competition 2013, titled Evoking Memories.

SLANT is an international organization that seeks to provide opportunities for creative achievement. Their competitions are open to anyone, professional or amateur. “Tom and I entered the competition to see how one works and feels compared to our normal studio routine,” Lee says. “We really wanted to see how well we could apply what we already know in the world of landscape architecture.” The criterion for Evoking Memories was to create a virtual garden, designing in a geographical, topographical, climatic and cultural environment of the competitor’s choosing

Lee and Wenner’s concept was that everyone has lost someone. “The Unbroken Circle” is space that evokes memories of those missed, lost, or no longer in our lives. Through a contrast of unity and separation, the absence of human presence in this site helps people to remember those missing and why they were special. The students chose a site near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a border created in 1953 after the end of the Korean War, which separated thousands of families. “We tried to isolate a memory that is relatable to everyone, in this case, loss of a loved one,” Wenner explains. “The Korean DMZ was a perfect location for this because of the fact that the separation and loss that has occurred is still happening today.”

Eliza Pennypacker, professor of landscape architecture, served as mentor and advisor to Lee and Wenner. “I was really excited when Wilson and Tom invited me to work with them,” Pennypacker says. “I was not only impressed that they chose to do this project just at the end of a challenging semester, but that they discovered the opportunity on their own. The guys worked hard, and it is great to see their ideas develop and receive recognition.”

Tom Wenner, a resident of Hershey, is a transfer student from the University of California, Davis, who came to Penn State because of the Department of Landscape Architecture’s national reputation. “I found Penn State was the ideal school for me to learn this profession,” Wenner says. “The resources and opportunities the school provides its students are incredible.”

Wilson Lee, a native of Philadelphia, credits his success in the competition to his experience at Penn State. “Knowing that I was able to achieve such a high honor after just two years of college proves to me that Penn State is doing something right with the kind of skills and concepts that have become entrenched in my head,” Lee says. “The connections and opportunities at my disposal are absolutely magnificent. I can’t imagine how I’d be able to do this competition without all the resources of the Stuckeman Family Building.

Tom Wenner and Wilson Lee
Tom Wenner and Wilson Lee