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College Hill Demonstration Garden

San Francisco, CA | 2013

Meeting the ambitious program of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) for a micro-site necessitated an approach of layered complexities and integrated design strategies. The proposal for the 1/3 acre site in a dense residential neighborhood overlaps agriculture, green infrastructre, urban ecologies and outdoor education. Proposal features include an outdoor classroom with permeable paving, a rain garden, raised beds for vegetable production and an integrated stormwater approach. Educational features include native plantings, native edibles, compost areas, food towers, green walls, solar energy production and a solar oven. Design approach integrates playful forms with careful consideration of context, including adjacent neighborhood properties, creation of community gathering areas and a maintenance and education plan for garden operations.

Site Plan and Stormwater Diagram

Planting Diagram: The three main planting areas in the garden are conceptualized in terms of overlapping programatic strategies, creating complexity and allowing each area to address multiple project goals. The Raingarden integrates indigenous medicinal and food plants (found naturally in riparian areas) into a palette of wetland edge and phytoremediators. The Farm incorporates food crops from across the cultural diversity of San Francisco, as well as plants grown primarily for their seeds to support the education mission. The Hedgerow edges integrate native plants for habitat and to support the food crops.

Teaching Diagram: The garden will be primarily used by school groups with a limited time for their visit. This diagram choreographs one potential route through the garden, in which the four pillars of learning are integrated with the landscape elements on site. The tour might begin at the garden boxes, where students would harvest a leguminous plant, and locate the nodules on the roots. The teacher can use this activity to discuss the nitrogen cyle. Moving onto the outdoor kitchen students could clean and eat what they had harvested, and in the process learn about their own relationship to the nitrogen cycle and nutrition. In the raingarden they could visit one of the experiment stations, perhaps a condensation guage. The lesson on the water cycle can be related back to the plant the students just ate. Finally, they might visit the rain barrels to learn about stewardship and their own agency in making decisions that benefit the environment.

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