HomeMake It Beautiful: Asarum LandDesign Group’s Sarah Endriss In Her Own Words

People, planet, profit, and beauty.

(Ok, we broke away from the constraint of alliteration because neither prettiness nor pulchritude sufficed.)

“Asarum is committed to Triple Bottom Line + 1— Beauty. Beauty is something to behold— its moves you, lights you up, and inspires Love. And Love is what moves most people to preserve and protect something of value to them whether its a flower, a piece of history, local haunt, or even teenager hanging out on the corner or vacant weedy lot that invites habitat,” said Asarum LandDesign Group‘s Principal Sarah Endriss.

“Socially engaged design provides opportunities to get to know one another. For my non-profit community clients, it’s their constituents, their neighbors, shared/collective history, historic buildings, cultural traditions/events as well as the natural environment/habitats that support children of all species. Beauty or the opportunity to be known is therefore critical to long-term sustainability.”



Endriss lays out her sustainability philosophy with the equation: Engagement + Investment = Ownership and Stewardship

We wanted to learn more about Endriss and how Asarum builds community health and vitality through design.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

I grew up playing in the woods, skating on our pond, sledding down the hill in our backyard, pressing apples for cider from my grandmother’s orchard and camping. I was lulled to sleep by the sound of frogs and peepers at night during the summer and awoken by chickadees and Cardinals during the winter as they fed at the feeder. Every kid should be as lucky and there is no reason whatsoever that children living in Philadelphia or any urban center shouldn’t have their version of this type of connection to nature. Our small backyard in Germantown is teaming with woodland critters and birds and my kids are creating their own connection.

For me, people’s connection to Nature is critical to their overall health and wellbeing. The benefits (to name a few): stress reduction, peace, joy, creativity, and critical problem-solving skills. These can have a profound effect on a person’s sense of self, well-being, and success in life. So what gets me up in the morning is my commitment to building community health and vitality through planning & design engagement projects with neighborhoods, organizations, and schools.
As a firm, Asarum is committed to providing socially engaged design that is grounded in ecological health.

How does your business connect to TBL and why it’s important to you?

For Asarum, its all about people and their relationship with each other and our planet because our children’s future depends on it. Now more than ever imbalances are being felt almost daily: climate, economy, health and wellbeing, equality and quality of services. I provide a service within the field of landscape architecture that has residents “be the difference that makes a difference” in their neighborhood for their family and community.

Please tell us more about your sustainability philosophy: Engagement + Investment = Ownership and Stewardship

For me, sustainability begins with engagement. When people engage and are enrolled in their future, they become invested. Once invested, ownership is present and possible. This is critical because, without ownership, people aren’t easily inspired to preserve and protect their community’s assets. Knowing assets exist does not necessarily protect them; owning it, however, does. Stewardship is essential to any project’s longer-term sustainability. And when it comes to celebrating new landscapes and spaces, success and sustainability of the project depend on how much it is loved and cared for. With this as the foundation my practice, all design conversations must begin with grassroots community engagement and it must be easily accessible, hands-on, fun, educational, creative and inspiring. If it isn’t, most people have enough on their plates to take a pass.

Do you have a recent project that demonstrates this?

The Kelly Green Project is exactly that. We have worked for 5 years with students, families, neighbors and a host of amazing organizations to realize a community space that not only provides new opportunities for environmental health, education and play but also works to create community by encouraging people of every age to come together to design and build something for each other. The goal of this project is not in just reimagining the school grounds, but in providing a process that allows the community to get to know one another and the history and culture of the community they call home, experience the awe and wonder of nature, and most importantly take pride in what they design, build and accomplish together.

What is one thing that most people do not know about your business that you would like them to know?

Asarum is a small firm born out of my commitment to facilitate conversations for possibility that inspire the communities & organizations I work with to “be the difference that makes a difference” for themselves. Asarum has no interest in
telling a client group what they need; however, we are really excited and passionate about providing a process that allows groups to discover for themselves what is possible. From there, we work to identify what is missing and what would, if inserted, provide new opportunities to achieve their vision.

Sometimes it looks like a design build natural playspace, at other times a strategic visioning process and capital campaign or grant for planning and design funds. The process is always unique to the client and its constituents.  Asarum is also an opportunity for me to be flexible and available for my children while they are young. I have two children— 12 and 8, and I made a very deliberate choice to stay home and work part-time when my son was first born. Asarum has been 8+ years in the making. Its been a discovery— one steeped in education and teaching at Jefferson University (formerly Philadelphia University), professional training and development through Landmark Worldwide, relationship building and a desire to not just talk about sustainability, but practice what it means to be truly whole and complete for myself, my family and the community and environment we live in. My life and work are of my own design and what I am very good at is enrolling others in the creation of new possibilities.

Asarum’s niche, socially engaged ecological landscape planning & design, fulfills my dream of living in and working for communities that want to be sustainable because they say so… not because someone said they need it. Asarum LandDesign Group is also committed to partnering with and bolstering local businesses and design entrepreneurs to deliver the skills and expertise necessary for each client project.

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Click here to learn more about Asarum LandDesign Group.