2000 Incarnation New York City

Located in upper Manhattan, Incarnation is New York’s only pediatric skilled nursing facility for HIV-infected children. Opened in 1988 Incarnation provides foster care for 24 children whose parents or guardians have passed away or are to sick or unable to care for their children.

As stated in their mission statement, ICC strives to “provide a nurturing, home-like setting that provides first-rate care, filled with love and compassion, designed to give each child a longer and better life. To make every effort to improve each child’s health to allow the earliest possible discharge back to a home setting.”

The reality is that many children won’t leave Incarnation and this is very much their home.

This former convent, purchased in the 1980 by Geraldo Rivera and Rossie O’Donnell was given to the Archdiocese of New York who in partnership with Colombia Presbyterian Hospital created ICC. Prior to our involvement a garden had been that unfortunately was all but destroyed during a building renovation thus we were asked to design and build a new garden.

Coinciding with our involvement recent developments in drug therapies has advanced the survivability for children with AIDS and many are living well into their teenage years. Because both the interior and exterior of the facility had been designed for younger children, activities and spaces for the older children were lacking.

Research methods:

Given the timeframe for the project, 5 weeks, and because of the distance 3000 miles, a process similar to that used at Cancer Lifeline was not feasible. With precious little time for design, and because many of the children’s age, cognitive ability (2 were autistic), and physical health it was decided the participatory model would need to be modified.

So that we could have a programmatic direction when we arrived, focus groups were held among the staff and administrators prior to our arrival in which a list of needs, desired activities, types of spaces, profiles of expected users and special needs to be considered was developed.

Upon our arrival a focus group with all staff, students and faculty was convened and the results of their work was presented and discussed. Three alternative designs were created, a design review was conducted, the comments synthesized into a preferred alternative developed and a final design accepted. During the development of the preferred alternative the students also met one on one with several residents soliciting their input, explaining our design and informing redesign where appropriate.

2000 Flower Show

In 2000 a small group of students under the guidance of Daniel Winterbottom created an exhibit for the Northwest Flower Show entitled “A Healing Garden”.

The project illustrated how a small garden can be designed to facilitate the needs of those undergoing treatment for an illness. The garden contains several spaces designed to facilitate various activities including contemplation, gardening, socializing and meditation. An ADA accessible path, accessible raised planters, a water feature, animal pens with chickens and aromatic and medicinal plantings. The spaces also were designed with differing characters from formal to the wild. A large copper gateway flanked the entry into the site and sculptures were integrated into the garden. At the far end a rusticated arbor was built above a glass bench. The garden received a gold medal.

1999 Cancer Lifeline

Cancer Lifeline, located in Seattle, WA serves over 7000 people per year and strives to improve the quality of life for those living or affected by cancer. It prides itself as a non-judgmental, safe haven for those affected to affirm their right to self-determination. Programs are designed to decrease the stress and sense of isolation that come with a cancer diagnosis. Programs, classes and workshops include family, kids and parents supports groups, nutrition, relaxation, meditation and visualization, healing arts for creative expression, exercise and health promotion, workplace consultation and a Life Line newsletter. In our project we worked very closely with the staff and participants in the creative healing arts program.

In 1999 Cancer Lifeline moved into their newly remodeled facility, the Dorothy O’Brien Center. The building had three roof decks earmarked to become gardens words of the client would “ restore a sense of order, safety, and privacy for those dealing with the chaos induced by this illness. The act of gardening produces a peaceful, effortless concentration that increases our capacity to rest. It creates more outward perceptions rather than inward self-consciousness, a valuable balance to the uneasiness of illness. This then became our mandate.

On their own Cancer Lifeline had held one focus group to discuss the goals of the gardens.

From these came several points:

  • Our desire is to create a space that invites the cancer patient to be rather than do. A haven, embraced by the natural world that encourages introspection, self-expression and creativity. A place of tranquility, energy and meditation.
  • A garden that will stimulate the senses, exudes a caring touch, attract animals.
  • A garden the surprises with whimsy.
  • A garden that expresses the power and order of nature.
  • A garden that might incorporate color therapy, herbalism, and aromatherapy.
  • A place for relaxation and visualization.

Through a participatory process the University of Washington studio members worked with the Cancer Lifeline participants and staff to create designs for three gardens. The first is the earth/sky garden that is one large space that can be divided into 2 spaces through a sliding copper door. One space is designed as a spill over from the healing arts classroom where participants can come out and work in this space. The other is designed for groups to get together more informally or to be used for therapy groups etc. When the doors are opened the space becomes one continuous space and this is used for large gatherings, rituals and celebrations. The first space is the “earth room” and has a lot of copper, a mandala overhead and is more intimate and contained. The second room, the “sky room” and is open above and oriented to the spectacular views of the Cascade Mountains to the east.

The second garden, the garden of contemplation, is designed to be used by one or two people. Lattices and bamboo provide screening and allows a degree of privacy for the users. A small rock and water garden contain some sculptures designed so mementos can be left for those that have passed on. This design reflects a strong Asian influence.

The third garden is the garden and celebration and it is a kitchen garden with many medicinal herbs and edible plants. This garden is used mainly by the staff who hold meetings and eat lunch in this space. A copper arbor provides shade overhead.

1998 Santa Ursula, Mexico

In 1998, students constructed a public community washing facility on a plot of land set aside by the residents of Santa Ursula, Mexico. A cistern used to collect and store rainwater from the roof over the wash stands provides water for washing. The soapy water, collected from the washstands is filtered, biologically treated, and used to irrigate a community garden and orchard. A plaza and community cooking facility were also built.

As a means to offer a cross cultural experiential learning experience and to explore sustainable models for rural development in the third world development, the Department of Landscape Architecture initiated a study abroad design/build studio. In the course students are exposed students to indigenous materials and construction methodologies employed in the central highlands of Mexico. The students are also introduced to the cultural life of the small community of Santa Ursula.

A common problem facing squatter settlements and other poor communities, both rural and urban, is the absence of water for drinking and washing. Families are forced to import water at relatively high cost or find a nearby river or spring to meet these needs. The problem is particularly severe in and around Cuernavaca because of the high rate of immigration from rural areas, from Mexico City and neighboring states. For the past decade the area has seen an explosive, chaotic growth of densely populated settlements at the edges of the metro area, on lands that are either purchased or invaded. Living conditions are dangerously unhealthy because of poor sanitation, lack of potable water, and of course inadequate housing.

The zone to the west of Cuernavaca and Temixco, is still largely unsettled and contains a rare resource, clean running water in the ravines of Los Sabinos, La Tilapea, and El Alguacil (see map). The other ravines are dry except in the rainy season. This area is coming under increased pressure from unplanned human settlements, however. La Union and Solidaridad are squatter settlements, the result of land invasions. Santa Ursula has been settled legally by the sale of lots from Acatlipa, but lacks services.

Santa Ursula is home to 90 families who survive by working urban jobs in Temixco and Cuernavaca or as agricultural laborers. Most families have several young children, so there are about 450 direct beneficiaries (5 per family). The women (100% of them) will benefit in terms of convenience and health. The project may employ 5% of the men. Other benefits to men are indirect since men do not wash clothes.

Indirect beneficiaries include the ejido populations downstream of the area now being contaminated. Two ejidos, San Anton and Temixco, with a total of about 250 farmers, have communal lands along the river on which they would like to establish ecological parks to derive a small economic benefit from tourism while protecting the natural resources. The Santa Ursula project will therefore indirectly benefit another 1,250 people.

Short term objectives cover the 7 months from early May to the end of November. The final three months coincide with the fall semester at Univ. Washington. Participating students will assist in the design and build the project as part of their academic credit. The objectives are therefore highly focused to ensure successful, rapid completion.

  • To provide an alternative water storage and laundering facility in Santa Ursula;
  • to demonstrate the use of ecologically sustainable technologies such as rainwater collection, biological filtration and recycling of gray waters for trees and gardens;
  • to create a pleasing space for community interaction;
  • to eliminate laundering activities in the Los Sabinos river;
  • to provide a social service opportunity for students; and,
  • to promote intercultural exchange for residents and for North American visitors.
  • Long term objectives seek to multiply the use of the technologies to ease the burden for women in Santa Ursula and neighboring communities that lack water. It is hoped that the project will stimulate opportunities to:
  • promote rain collection and water recycling in private households;
  • promote sanitation alternatives for private household’s e.g. composting toilets;
  • increase awareness and attention to health and nutrition, especially for women;
  • increase ecological awareness within the community; and,
  • derive food and income from the cultivation of vegetables, herbs and fruit trees.

Located in Santa Ursula, Morelos, Mexico, a small rural village of ninety families, with out electricity, water, or sewer, this project advances a larger plan, preserving the last remaining patches of undeveloped land and addresses a local concern, lack of washing facilities in the village.

Santa Ursula lies west of Cuernavaca, and its growing population is threatening the remaining natural areas around Santa Ursula. The ecology is this area is unique, composed of deep lush ravines, called barrancas, and dry mesas, call lomas. The baranncas support abundant native flora and fauna, serving as important corridors, linking preserves to the north and south. The residents of Santa Ursula travel, by foot to the barranca to wash and collect potable water. The trip is arduous and dangerous, especially for women, many of whom are pregnant. Many suffer from arthritis and nerve damage caused by prolonged exposure to the cold water and are contributing to the soil compaction and loss of vegetation along the stream.

When questioned, he women expressed a desire to capture water and build a lavanderia in the village, a traditional social gathering place in older villages. In fall 1998 a group of landscape architecture students led by Assistant Professor Daniel Winterbottom from the University of Washington went to Santa Ursula to work with the client, the community of Santa Ursula. In nine weeks, they built a rainwater collection system, a storage cistern for 80,000 liters of water, a public wash facility, a public plaza, a bio filtration system to treat the wash water, and irrigation system to water the surrounding orchard.

A series of small focus groups were held with the women, followed by a larger public community meeting to solicit impute on the project. Afterwards one on one interview’s were conducted with the women, since many were not comfortable expressing their opinions publicly. The design ideas were mocked up on site to for discussion. Out of this process two schemes were presented to the community and one was chosen as the preferred scheme.

The project serves as a model, demonstrating how traditional and modern technologies can together, and serve as sustainable solutions to improve the life of the villages and preserve ecological systems. A secondary intention is to increase opportunities for social cohesion through, community washing (lavanderia), community celebration and civic events (Plaza and barbecue), and children’s play (site grading and play objects).

1998 Cascade Community Park

This project stems from collaboration between the design/build program and residents from the Cascade community and small inner city neighborhood in Seattle, WA. The community has been under threat from gentrification and loosing open space through development. The community proposed the reclamation of a small parcel of land as an adopt-a-park and partnered with our program to design and implement a community park.

The community requested that the garden be composed of demonstration areas to inform the public on sustainable landscape practices. To achieve this we proposed the following:

  • The rainwater from the surrounding roof surfaces would be captured in an underground cistern and used for irrigation.
  • Create a community gathers pavilion structure.
  • Use recycled or green materials where ever possible.
  • All the plants used in the design would be native.
  • Set aside an area for a salvage plant nursery.
  • Provide an educational component.

Additional student goals:

  • Combine the rainwater storage and pavilion to conserve space and provide a cover for the cistern.
  • Provide an outdoor plaza to house community celebrations.

After eight weeks of construction the Cascade community cut the ribbon for an adopt-a-park as the children from a near by school looked upon the bioswale they had recently planted. The 8000-gallon cistern supplies water for a smaller holding cistern from which the garden is irrigated. The pavilion, decked with plastic lumber provides the community with gathering place beneath a roof supporting a variety of vines that in time will become literally a green roof of kiwi, grapes and clematis. The composting demonstration site is producing fresh organic matter and the plants, labeled by species serves as a community botanical garden educating visitors and school children like. The park, once a weed invested lot now serves as a place of celebration for the community an as a place of refuge for the women in the transitional housing project across the street. As a model the project offers a powerful example of land recycling through community participation.

1997 Sandpoint Outdoor Classroom

In 1997, an outdoor classroom was built for the Montessori Preschool a Montessori daycare center that serves a University of Washington residential community.

The project provides a covered space for the children to play, gather and perform in inclement weather. The structure also links a series of gross and fine motor skill activities designed into the structure. In addition to creating a useable structure the studio explored the use of sustainable building techniques including straw bale seating walls for story time and performances, a roofing material made of recycled paper and asphalt and low VOC paints. The students applied their handprints on the finish stucco coat of the straw bale wall, personalizing the structure. In addition to the structure and play elements a native garden was planted providing a place for teachers to hold nature classes outdoors.

The children and teachers were integrated into the design process with the students creating drawings in the beginning of the design process and the teachers reviewing the designs at all stages. The students also were provided the opportunity to observe the building process and ask questions.

1997 Garden of Eatin

With funding from the Howard S. Wright Fund, sixteen students under the instruction of Assistant Professor Daniel Winterbottom and Lecturer Luanne Smith designed and built a garden courtyard. The students were asked to think of the garden as a model for a new urban oasis for the 21st century. The garden serves the recently renovated CAUP Community Design Building formally the “Husky Den” and the University District community. As large urban open spaces become increasingly difficult to acquire for parklands, smaller “residual” spaces can become valuable green spaces, providing urban populations with an educational, recreational, social and spiritual resource.

The project, entitled “The Garden of Eatin’ ” serves as a demonstration garden illustrating sustainable practices for small urban gardens. Following a week of research into the principles and technologies of sustainable design the class developed the following goals:

The rainwater from the surrounding roof surfaces would be captured and used to augment the irrigation.

All existing materials on site would be recycled.

Most new materials would be “green materials” if possible.

All the plants used in the design would be edible.

Additional student goals:

By locating the existing ADA ramp against an abutting building and serving as a “backdoor” a new ramp should reflect the qualities of inclusion and be integrated into the design.

A series of open rooms would be developed offering a range of social opportunities.

The students as a group developed a schematic design model for review by the University Landscape Advisory Board and with their blessing, completed the final design and construction documents before demolition began. With help from the U. of W. Facilities Department, the concrete slab of a past existing building was removed, footings were dug and poured and mountains of compost brought in. The students learned how to stretch a tight budget by seeking donations such as tiles for the mosaic seating stairs, bowling balls for the stair finials and pavers for the courtyard. They learned how to transform the found object into a design feature.

After nine weeks of site work the cistern collecting 4000 gallons of water was in place, the green living walls of grapes, hops, honeysuckle and kiwi were installed, the ADA ramp made of recycled plastic “lumber” was built and the tiles grouted. As the students gathered amidst the plantings of blueberry, gooseberry, currents and flowering herbs the reflected on the studio process and remembered the site as they had found it the first day of class. They marveled how they finally understood the relationship of a flat two dimensional drawing to a three dimensional environment and the lectures on materials, layout and grading related to working concrete, batterboards and surveying. As a result of the project, transformation took place on many levels. The site was not only physically rehabilitated, but the students gained confidence in their professional skills, the University District community has a new open space and the students working in the building now have a garden, full of butterflies and birds to look upon. It was the experiential nature of the learning, the responsibility of taking a design through construction to its build form that made the studio so rewarding. As faculty we heard repeatedly that the design/build process married “real world” to the academic work in which they had been immersed over the last three years.

The “ Garden of Eatin’” is open to the public and is located off the alley between University and Brooklyn Avenues.

1996 Gordon Varey Memorial Garden

In 1996, a Memorial Garden to Gordon Varey, former dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning, and was conceived by Associate Professor Daniel Winterbottom as a tribute after his untimely death in 1995. The students felt a garden; a meditative place best reflected the qualities of gentleness and commitment to craft and design that so much characterized Mr. Varey. A series of quotes, taken from the memorial service were etched into the paving. The design creates a series of places for reflection and meditation. Through the design a series of gardens were created including a Woodland Garden, Ornamental Grass Garden, Medicinal Garden, Bamboo Forest and a Butterfly Garden. A raised wooden boardwalk that also provides a link between a paved gathering plaza to a viewing pavilion connects the gardens. The garden is also composed of a series of open paced and turf spaces in which college activities are held.