Efficient Community Meetings
The municipal support for the community’s public stair project forced us rethink the structure of the seminar. We needed to make the Sunday meetings with the community efficient and short, because we would be taking time away from their planned work sessions. Our solution was to coordinate our meetings with planned food breaks, and moved our presentations directly next to the work site. If you go to the people, and there is food, there will be a good turn out!
Drawings from first workshop
Our task was to synthesize the community input, balance their desires with the budget and time we had to design in (just 4 weeks!).
Looking through the drawings, most first choice projects were larger than we could do in the time alotted (a security tower or a community center), but across the board, the second choice was a public space that had a playground, benches and flowers.
To clarify preference on park location before the second Sunday meeting, we handed ballots out to the 90 homes and explained the two places where people drew their parks. The next day, we collected 56 votes, with 52 people selecting the same site. With a location and a program chosen by the community, we were on our way!
RESEARCH: Existing parks, material studies, site visit
Case studies- It is crucial to understand the local context you are designing in, so before designing, we did research, mainly through site visits and observation. We visited many parks and public spaces in Lima, as well as small parks in the surrounding areas of Puente Piedra, and past projects from the IUCI. Jorge Alarcon Piscoya is from Lima, and recently completed his Masters of Landscape Architecture from UW. He was invaluable to explaining the ecology of the coast, especially the fragile Lomas system that we were designing for.
Material Studies: Landscape – We began taking an inventory of what plants were being used, keeping in mind the climate and water scarcity of our community. We then visited the plant nursery that we have used in the past projects to see costs and learn more about each plant’s needs (sun, planting spacing, water needs etc).
Material Studies: Hardscape – Metal elements rust rather quickly due to salty air of the coast, and are rather expensive, so we typically use them sparingly. Other elements in local parks (besides plastic play structures) are eucalyptus poles, concrete testing cylinders, wooden trellises/benches, and stone.
We have a connection with a local precast concrete factory that produces affordable concrete elements. They are typically used for access to municipal water and sewer pipes, but our projects with the community has used them as benches, retaining walls, and planters.
Site Visit – We needed to have a good understanding about the unique geometries of the site, its proximity to neighbors (lot lines are more of a guideline here), solar orientation, and relationship to future street and sidewalk development.
Luckily, one of our students had a drone! This tool proved useful to get accurate, up-to-date aerial imagery.
DESIGN: Drawing, modeling, group charrette scramble
Working in a large group can be hard, especially with a fast paced design. I used my design/build experience with Steve Badanes as a guide, and started out with “community agreements”, listing the pros and cons of designing in a group. This was helpful because if I saw any red flags or issues, we had a document showing what our expectations were.
To speed the process, we did three fast paced design sessions. Starting out in 3 small groups, two medium groups, then the whole class together. Having three iterations, and mixing groups up makes the final product a collective effort, as opposed to choosing a specific persons idea.
Physical modeling with scaled figures, sections, and questions such as “how will that be built” helped us stay within the realm of realistic possibilities. Another Steve quote that stays with me is “You students try to cram all 20 great ideas you ever had into one project. Simplify!”
PRESENT: Community workshop 2
The goal of the second meeting was to reveal the most popular proposed project and locations, present the student’s schematic designs, and solicit feedback. Of the 7 students, we had one native Spanish speaker. Juan led the presentations, but other students would describe specific elements of the designs, with Juan translating.
As trained designers, we can easily see a plan and understand what is being shown. It is not as easy for others, so we had the students draw perspective sketches of the design elements.
Our feedback exercise hoped to understand what were the most popular play elements in the park, and what was the preferred color palette. We proposed teeter totters, a balancing beam structure, and a climbing net.
The main takeaways we received from the second meeting was that the play elements we proposed were considered too dangerous for little kids (teeter totter= toe smasher). Additional elements they requested were: a slide, garbage can, stage for music, a water tank for irrigation, and a fence to keep the animals out. With schematic design complete, and more feedback from the community, next step was design development and construction documents.