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Students compete in garden design contest

By Hallie Jordan     10/6/11 7:00pm

Architecture students will be racing against the clock this weekend as they compete to design a campus community garden in roughly two days.

"This is a short, very intense design period with a lot of ideas but less focused on details," coordinator and third-year architecture graduate student Andrew Daley said. "I think this is a really manageable project."

The short period of time given for the design is a classic technique among architects, often known by the French word charrette, referring to the final push of a design project which is usually the most productive.

Any architecture students who decide to participate in the charrette will form groups of three to six people, including someone who is from a different major. The groups will then have from 5 p.m. Friday to midnight on Sunday to complete their designs. The site for the garden will not be announced until the contest begins. Participants will be expected to create a three by four foot poster showing their design, renderings, diagrams and text.

"This charrette is terrific for our students and for the university at large," Dean of the Rice School of Architecture Sarah Whiting said. "In a very short period, the student teams generate very exciting ideas that help everyone see a part of the campus differently. The RSA students get to experience a different pace of work – an intense burst of brainstorming – in an entirely collaborative format."

The idea to build a community garden was inspired by the three already-existing gardens on campus located at Martel College, Hanszen College and Wiess College. However, because these gardens have only had varying degrees of success, Housing & Dining hoped the students could design a more successful and usable garden.

"These gardens are small and have an obvious connection to the serveries, but we hope the new garden will be able to contribute a larger percentage of food to the serveries as well as the community both on campus and off," Daley said.

H&D got the idea for a garden when they started allowing themselves to think and dream, Project and Contract Manager for H&D, C.J. Claverie said.

"We thought and hope we can engage a larger group of people with the garden in its new site," Claverie said.

The site will be announced Friday afternoon and has not been officially approved by the administration.

The garden will be run mainly by the community garden class, but may rent out a few gardening beds to people who live in the neighborhood around Rice, Daley said.

In addition to this project, which the architecture school was asked to design by H&D, the school receieved a $300,000 endowment from the ALFA funds, making $10,000-12,000 available each year for projects like this one, Daley said.

Last year, the architecture school organized a similar charrette to design a visitor center to be placed on the second floor of Fondren Library. Though it has not been built, there were several designs and one winner was chosen.

Critics will be able to look at the finished works for a week and a half after the charrette, and a winner will be announced on Oct. 21.

"It will be a really interesting experiment to see how it goes," Daley said.

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