Architecture students help irrigate community garden

Will Conley

Shaping ideas into reality is no longer an after-graduation goal for architecture students.
University students took the study of architecture to the next level this summer when they drew and constructed garden structures and an aqueduct for LaSalle Community Gardens, which straddle an apartment building at 1809 LaSalle Ave. S. in Minneapolis.
The project was part of a “design/build” course offered last fall quarter by the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.
The course, which continued during the first summer session and ended Thursday, marked the first time students could actively participate in every stage of building projects for real clients “from conception to construction.”
“It was actually a very practical experience for architects,” said Libby Parrish, a graduate student who took the new course, “Building within the Community.”
Instructed by professional architects Joseph Lambert, Jonathan Query and Geoffrey Warner, students built support structures including benches, wheelchair-accessible garden plots and a “half-light structure” — a gazebo-like building that gives tree-like shade.
A long aqueduct transports water overhead from a fire hydrant to four large barrels in the gardens, with a water wheel spinning in the falling stream for a playful touch. Construction lasted from June 17 to July 8.
Gardeners, who rent plots for $10 a year from the Stevens Square Community Organization, were pleased with the results.
“The aqueduct is beautiful. I think it’s very sculptural,” said Paul Hinderager, a community gardener who witnessed part of the construction. “The … improvements add some structure to the garden.”
Query, one of the course instructors, also highlighted how communities can benefit from University projects.
“This is a service (the residents) would not otherwise have had access to,” he said.
Open to all architecture students, the two-part course took them through the entire design process, including interacting with clients, reviewing designs with city code officials and preparing construction documents. Students also looked for materials, managed budgets and fabricated elements that eventually led to erecting the project.
The first half of the course took place fall quarter, when students and gardeners met to discuss the designs. The Stevens Square Community Organization provided the plots and acted as liaison. The construction phase took part during first summer session.
Each student was able to try different jobs associated with construction, from managing money to using building tools.
“I tried using a welding torch, and I don’t ever want to do it again,” said Puneet Vedi, an architecture senior, pointing to a small wound on his thumb.
Vedi and Parrish designed most of the north garden, which contained the half-light structure, a walkway and part of the aqueduct.
The finishing touches were put on Thursday evening. Some screws and stolen granite slabs needed replacing and more secure gluing. In addition, some paint was added. The students and gardeners will meet again this Thursday to discuss ways to make the new additions look even more “at home” in the garden. One idea is to grow vines on the aqueduct.
Because the course is beneficial to students and because it helps to give the University a “pleasant public image,” Query and the other instructors, along with Tom Fisher, dean of the school of architecture, hope to expand the design/build program. Query’s ultimate goal is to make a design/build course mandatory for all architecture students.
“(This course) gives students the opportunity to understand what it really means to translate an idea into a real project,” he said.