On Friday January 6, before attended an ASLA workshop in Savannah, GA, I spent time at Savannah Classical Academy, a local charter school, talking about landscape architecture and conducting a design charrette with about 15 fifth through ninth grade students. Along with my new friend Katrina Majewski of the Northern California Chapter of ASLA, we gave a slide show describing how landscape architects solve problems, create beautiful places for people, and improve the environment.
Members of our young audience were all from the urban neighborhoods of Savannah, and were excited to learn that the famous landscaped public squares of their city were a result of a deliberate planning process. I showed them pictures of successful projects where vibrant multi-use spaces have been created in other cities such as Chicago (Millenium Park). For Boston, I focused on our Central Artery parks and Post Office Square (you can park underneath? cool!). They picked up very quickly on the theme of places for people rather than for cars.
We then ventured outside their own building to inspect an adjacent vacant lot that is owned by the school. In break out groups the students created site plans for the lot. They proposed places for sitting and eating, complete with water features and lighting. One group even took security into consideration by proposing a card swipe system to enter the fenced park. One of my favorite moments, however, was when one group proposed a small “Sparkbucks“ (sic) cafe, changing the name so as not to be sued by the big corporation.
The kids were awesome, and it was an energizing way to start the weekend. It should be noted that the students volunteered to attend a Friday afternoon workshop the first week back to school following winter vacation. A big shout out to the school’s Director, Mr. Ben Payne, who played host to us for the afternoon.