Lawrence Tech students help design community garden project
Friday, August 27th, 2010
Over the summer Lawrence Tech students put theory and practice together when they helped design community gardens for Yad Ezra, which provides kosher food to needy Jewish families. The Giving Gardens project combines landscape design, gardening and a mural at the food pantry on 11 Mile Road in Berkley.
Lawrence Tech students and one recent graduate jumped at the chance to work on an actual project with landscape architect Ralph Nunez and interior designer Shari Stein, who are both adjunct professors at Lawrence Tech. More than a dozen Lawrence Tech students participated in the project, and several logged more than 50 hours, according to Stein.
The project includes the design and installation of high-yield vegetable planting beds at the rear of Yad Ezra building, vertical vegetable gardens on the front the building, and an interior hydroponic garden for the south-facing windows. The building’s courtyard has been cleaned up, and a mural brightens the client entrance.
Architecture student Neil Page said a major challenge was to find a way to prevent the damage caused to the rear garden beds by snow plowing. The solution they came up with was a more vertical design that will make the beds easier to see in the winter months.
“It was a great experience to take a class with Ralph and then work with him on a real project,” Page said. “There’s a big difference between a class project and working with real measurements.”
Dealing with the city building code was a learning experience for the students who had to make changes in their original plans to comply with the decisions made by the local zoning board, according to architecture student Corinna Szabo.
“It feels good, too. We had fun and I have enjoyed hearing people say thanks,” Szabo said.
The college students worked closely with high school students, who designed the mural on the side of the building.
The project got started on a plane trip when Stein sat next to Elaine Ryke, the operations director at Yad Ezra. She quickly realized that both high school and college students could play a role in beautifying the Yad Ezra facility.
She and Nunez put out an email to Lawrence Tech architecture students, while her daughter Mara contacted friends at Andover High School in Bloomfield Hills. The students met at Nunez’s office in Southfield to work on the plans.
“I have worked on many different design projects during my career, however this project has been the most meaningful and rewarding. To see the LTU students so excited and working in a collaborative setting was truly inspiring,” said Stein, who thanked Nunez for opening his office and dedicating numerous hours to this volunteer project.
Mara Stein and Rachel Vettese, also of Andover High School, described the project this way:
Well now you may ask, what is the mission of Giving Gardens? The students designed innovative gardens to yield large amounts of produce for Yad Ezra. The gardens are planned to surround the Yad Ezra facility. In addition, the plans include indoor plantings with hydroponics. This will allow Yad Ezra to plant fresh produce year round. Currently, the volunteers are developing an educational piece as well as a mural to brighten the outside of the facility. Please visit the Yad Ezra website to learn more about Giving Gardens, to actually help at home and donate your time. With the support of the community this project will truly grow.”
The web address is www.yadezra.org/giving-garden.php .