Instructors: Brian Cook and David Kahn
Location: Admiral Arleigh A. Burke Park and the Horizons K-8 School Grounds, Boulder, CO.
Construction Budget: $30,000
Project Summary: The Burke Park Outdoor Classroom is a collaborative design/build project uniting six community groups around the common purpose of constructing educational landscape spaces. Driven by the concept of strands emanating from a central heart, the project gives form to the shared community value of connection—with nature, and each other. A central gathering deck anchors the design, while implied paths formed by a tree collection, grassy play mounds, and "pocket" biomes extend a welcome to the surrounding neighborhood.
Project Purpose: Public parks face issues of economic and social sustainability. To address this the City of Boulder Parks and Recreation Department reaches out to community stakeholders to provide stewardship.
At Burke Park, the City asked the Horizons K-8 Charter School, the Frasier Meadows Retirement Community, the Mountain View United Methodist Church, neighboring residents, and the CU Boulder Program in Environmental Design to work together to design and construct an outdoor classroom. The City provided a budget of $30,000, and a short time frame to design and execute of the project within three and a half months.
Burke Park sits in the heart of a diverse, multigenerational community. During public brainstorming workshops members of the community expressed one desire above all—the chance to connect and interact. The design team invited the community to view the project through the lens of universal space - the idea of an inclusionary landscape that is accessible and usable to every group or individual. To understand the potentials of the site, hay bales were procured so community members could compose, stack, and arrange them to create spaces and temporary places.
The design process allowed the project's intent to shift from solely creating a classroom space to a commitment to nurturing the community's ideals. The community's enthusiasm to use and learn from the park in many ways led to the concept of the whole park as an outdoor classroom. The result is a multi-faceted landscape project with an emphasis on place-making, rooted in the fundamental qualities of the site.
Role of Landscape Architect: In this project, the landscape architects acted as leaders in social engagement and community building. They facilitated a collaborative design process, and produced all design models, drawings, prototypes, and construction documents within two months. They obtained building permits, managed the budget, oversaw the volunteer construction of the entire project, and created an interpretive guide in an additional month and a half. During this process, the team maintained a blog to communicate the design and construction process with community members.
Special Factors: An intensive community design process led the projects' program to transform from a singular structure to a constellation of interactive, educational landscape features. These include:
This work was accomplished under-budget with volunteer labor. The fact that it occurred during the months of January through the historic snowstorms of April, 2013 made things interesting.
Significance: This project left a tremendous impression on the surrounding neighborhood. The design was informed to a great extent by community participation. Particularly significant was the opportunity for young students to get involved, and see their input realized.
Beyond any physical accomplishments, this project was successful because it helped to establish a sense of agency and ownership in members of the next generation. Since they were invited to participate repeatedly in the design development process, neighbors and school children came to realize the power they can have to change their community via the landscape.
16 December 2013
05 September 2013