Monday, November 1, 2010

J. Tom Ashley, FAIA - McAllen Architect and Peace Corps Volunteer

In the Nov/Dec issue of Texas Architect magazine, on stands soon, McAllen architect J. Tom Ashley, FAIA, relays his experience as a Peace Corps volunteer who is currently lending his skills in planning and design in Romania. Below is an excerpt from his Essay and some additional pictures from his adventure.

Sometime after midnight in May 2009, I arrived in the Romanian capital of Bucharest as part of the twenty-sixth group of Peace Corps volunteers to serve in this former Soviet bloc country. All 37 of us had met in Washington, D.C., for orientation before flying together overseas. (At 67 years of age, I was among the oldest in the group. Most are in their 20s, although the Peace Corps actively promotes older volunteers.) We were exhausted due to a 10-hour layover in Amsterdam caused by a flight delay. But after landing in the capitol city, we immediately hopped aboard a bus for an hour’s ride northwest to the city of Targoviste. There we were able to catch a few hours of sleep before beginning an intensive 11-week pre-service training program. 

Ashley's Peace Corps assignment is at the Parcul Natural Lunca Muresului (PNLM) or Mures River National Park. The park features Romania’s longest in-country river, the Mures, which stretches 700 kilometers, beginning in the Carpathian Mountains and flowing west into Hungary. Read his Essay on page 27 of the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of Texas Architect.

Long term master plan includes EU-infrastructure and locally funded improvements 

Mini-Mures River, 60 meter long, scale model with recirculating water
(l-r) Biologist Gabi, Director Ovidiu, EE Director Paul Youth enjoying Romanian music 

One of 1200 species at Parcul Natural Lunca Muresului (photo by Biologist, Gabi Herlo) 

PNLM wetland planned to be replicated at Mures River model (photo by Biologist, Gabi Herlo) 

PNLM Colleague, Adina Blaj, helping with water-retaining rubber membrane
Visitor Center front steps to be renovated/expanded with warm-tone concrete leaf and animal paw impressions (funding justified as "habitat education")

Umbrellas planned to be replaced with native plant-covered terasa acoperta/shade lattice 

EU-funded volunteers from France, Lithuania and Morocco at River Model 

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