Ehly's class presentation to Denver Botanic Gardens

Instructor Jeremy Ehly's praxis students interpret feedback during a presentation from Brian Vogt, CEO, Denver Botanic Gardens. 

A digital rendering of one of the mobile ticket centers for Denver Botanic Gardens.

A digital rendering of one of the mobile ticket centers for Denver Botanic Gardens.

Instructor Emily Greenwood with her praxis students at the Environmental Design Creative Labs Center.

Instructor Emily Greenwood with her praxis students at the Environmental Design Creative Labs Center. 

A digital rendering of VITA for Denver Botanic Gardens.

A digital rendering of VITA for Denver Botanic Gardens. 

Mobile ticket center window renderingEach spring, Environmental Design offers praxis studios for third-year students, giving them experience in solving real-world problems by serving groups and organizations in Boulder and surrounding communities. This semester, students could choose from five different course options ranging from design-builds to infrastructure planning. Clients and community partners this year included Denver Botanic Gardens, the City of Globeville and the Ponderosa community in Boulder.

Instructor Jeremy Ehly and his praxis course have been working with Denver Botanic Gardens to design two separate mobile ticket centers for the York St. and Chatfield Farms locations. The class presented its final presentation to Denver Botanic Gardens on April 13, which included a virtual reality walk-thru for the client.

“We could actually go inside the ticket booth and really get a sense,” said Brian Vogt, CEO of Denver Botanic Gardens. “I love the fact that they built a model so they could show what it would feel like to somebody working inside of it.”

The design process started with over 100 different design concepts at the beginning of the semester. The goal was to not use any one design from one student, but to incorporate design concepts from the class as a whole. From there, the class narrowed it down by common features and themes to six ideas for client feedback.  

Ehly's class during a DBG meeting.“Denver Botanic Gardens has been awesome at being incredibly clear and concise in making decisions about the project,” Ehly said. “And, what they’ve told us after every meeting is that we are outshining all the professional firms that they work with on a day-to-day basis. I think that is the highest compliment we could get.”

With any design and construction project comes budget constraints. For Ehly’s class, the students have been able to successfully keep their design-build within the budget Denver Botanic Gardens proposed, while also meeting and exceeding all of their expectations.

“This time it stayed in budget,” Vogt said. “That has not always been my experience with architectural firms, and the students’ designs are really impressive. The level of detail they put into this (the mobile ticket centers) is quite remarkable.”

Construction for the mobile ticket centers will take place during Maymester, in the Environmental Design Creative Labs at the Center for Innovation and Creativity building. Ehly claims, the experience students receive is comparable to a full-time job, for an intense three to four weeks. The public can expect to see the finished design in June.

For Ethan Herrold, an ENVD junior specializing in architecture, the praxis studio is about the real-world experience while working with a high-profile client. Herrold states that all of his previous studio courses prepared him for this moment, and that he’s most excited for the building process.

“Seeing it come to fruition, and getting to say ‘hey I designed that shutter,’ and taking responsibility for something that’s built where millions of people can see it every year is pretty spectacular,” Herrold said.

Greenwood's class installing the VITA modular unit at the Denver Botanic Gardens site. Denver Botanic Gardens also worked with instructor Emily Greenwood’s praxis studio this spring. The design challenge for her 15 undergraduate students was to “design and create a portable, self-contained, self-watering, self-powering vegetable garden intended to battle hunger and create micro-agri-economies in developing countries where water and fresh vegetables are scarce.”  The name of the design is called VITA.

VITA is a modular, hexagonal system that is designed to grow vegetables and other plant varieties. It is specifically designed to adapt to different climates, as well as scenarios. Users can choose from three different sizes. The VITA design also features bee bungalows and light boxes.

The ultimate goal for Vogt and Denver Botanic Gardens is to “save the world” with this new design and technology.

“If we can figure out a cool design that you could really plunk down anywhere in world, we could put some seeds in the ground, aim it towards the sun and it would self-irrigate with water from the atmosphere,” Vogt said. “Then, you could come back a few weeks later and you have fresh vegetables. It’s amazing!”

This week, Greenwood and her class will be holding a ribbon cutting ceremony for their design-build revealing at Denver Botanic Gardens. The unit will be installed near the Hive Garden Bistro. 

The event will be on Thursday, May 24 at 9 a.m. 

For more information about VITA and the design process, visit

Published: May 22, 2018 By