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Community Studio
A Collaborative of Volunteer Designers

University of British Columbia
Advisors: Patrick Condon, International ASLA, Cynthia Girling, ASLA, Doug Pateson, International ASLA.

Narrative Summary:
We are a student-initiated, student-run design outreach group that has been providing front-end design services and ongoing design assistance to community groups and non-profit organizations that require design assistance to advance their local projects. This year, one-third of the students in our MLA program have participated in one or more of these community-based projects. This group formed in response to the numerous requests for project assistance that our program receives, and to the strong interest among students to gain hands-on experience through community service.

We believe that Landscape Architects can contribute unique and valuable skills to the process of building community. We believe that a collaborative design process can provide a unified vision, build social capital, and attract political and financial support for local projects that would otherwise lose momentum or direction. We offer free assistance in the form of technical advice and research, graphic and drawing skills, conceptual designs, site analysis workshops, and charrette facilitation. Our work has primarily served to sustain projects through conceptual development and to promote the value and skills of Landscape Architects.

Since October 2003 we have supported seven projects, entirely voluntary and extracurricular to the degree requirements of the MLA program. These projects tend to fall outside of the schedule or scope of our program’s curriculum and research initiatives. Projects are selected based on our interest in community-driven initiatives with social or environmental goals, and on their match to the learning interests of individual students. Student project teams form around common interests and work collaboratively with the client group, asking for help from peers or from professional mentors as specific tasks arise.

A summary of each project is provided below.

Synthesizing and Illustrating Vision - Community School
A team of several Landscape Architecture students assisted a parent organization with the development of a long term vision for their local school yard. The students used the group’s input to develop design principles and then prepared and facilitated a two-day charrette. Students brought base maps and precedent images and worked with groups of parents, teachers, administrators, neighbors, and students to draw up a concept plan for the site. The final plan was synthesized from several ideas and scenarios that were considered by the various charrette teams. The illustrated concept plans have been used as a fundraising tool and presented to the area school board and at community events.

Engaging Local Knowledge - Urban Community Garden
An environmental youth organization manages a community garden, which is located on an urban-industrial edge and has challenging user conflicts between prostitution, drug use, dog-walking, and gardening. A team of Landscape Architecture students prepared and ran a series of on-site design workshops for the youth gardeners, presenting basic site analysis and design principles which would enable the youth workers to create a more functional, positive, fun, and safe place. In the workshops, the youth gardeners considered their site and developed design solutions. These ideas have been slowly implemented over the past year, and the workshops are now an ongoing part of the youth work program.

Building Community - Public Art for an Urban Farm
An on-campus farm is struggling for public support as campus development plans threaten to convert the property to residential use. A team of Landscape Architecture students developed an on-site, outdoor art gallery of several installations, intending to engage visitors and contribute to a stronger sense of place and identity for the farm. The students and area artists built sculptural and interactive art installations along a central corridor of the farm during the Saturday morning farmer’s markets. Throughout the summer, interested visitors walked through the gallery and were encouraged to contribute to some of the installations, such as the ‘Poetry Grove’.

Encouraging Ownership - Neighborhood House Roof Garden
A neighborhood non-profit organization has been building social, financial, and political support for a productive roof garden at a community centre. A student team worked with a registered Landscape Architect and the non-profit staff to facilitate several planning and design workshops for the space. The garden was installed in May 2005 with the help of many of the workshop participants, local students, and the Landscape Architecture student group.

Adding Quality and Value - Green School
A student team is working with a local school ‘greening committee’ to improve the grounds of their heritage school. The team has provided a planting plan for one area. The team is also developing design visualizations to support and advance the ideas generated by the school’s students, and will work with the committee to develop a long range vision for the entire site. The team will illustrate this vision through concept plans and precedent images.

Supporting Desire - Church Memorial Garden
A church group requested student assistance in developing a memorial garden on their property. A student team met with the group to discuss ideas and conduct an initial site survey. They are preparing several concepts in response to the group’s ideas, which will provide the group with some choices for a final plan.

Advancing Local Initiatives – First Nation Interpretive Centre
A First Nation community requested assistance in designing the landscape and gardens for their new Interpretive Centre. The community is located in a mountainous and rural area adjacent to a significant river, and is on the border between two biogeoclimatic zones. Four students visited the site, and are working with the Chief and Band Manager as well as with a plant sciences graduate student to develop a plan that can be easily implemented by the community. The Centre, expected to be built over this summer, will serve as a learning landscape for the many visitors and tourists who pass through the area.


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