The Loop | Vermont Living Place Competition

INTRODUCTION

Inspired by Lake Champlain and the flow of cycles within ecological and social spheres, the project encourage movement; of people, of water, and of wildlife. Our proposal has been driven by strong social and environmental goals that address storm-water management, sustainable food production and community engagement. Three simple and readily-found materials that reference Burlington’s reliance on Lake Champlain as a resource and as a place for recreation are used to convey the idea of movement and flow; recycled PVC pipes, wooden canoes, and recycled wooden pallets.

STORMWATER MANAGEMENT

As our chosen site at Burlington High school is fairly steep and currently has a large amount of runoff that rolls down the path and into the gutter, the site has been sloped and terraced along the west to allow runoff to be conveyed and to slowly infiltrate into the planted pollinator rain garden. At the top of the terraced rain garden are recycled PVC pipes that delineate the edge of the site and act as bird feeders. Along each terrace, rocks and plants help to stabilize the soil and provide wildlife habitat for insects, birds and bees. Specifically chosen plants provide colour and interest for wildlife year-round, while the final terrace contains a rocky retention area where runoff has time to infiltrate. Along the southern edge of the garden near the concrete pad, PVC pipes are lined up vertically at a height of 18 inches to act as both a retaining wall and as a bench. The bench area is made by gradually adding more PVC pipes and is surrounded by various plants to create a sense of enclosure. The planted rain garden also aids to create a sustainable food system as it provides a place for pollinators, which in turn helps to achieve a system that is resilient, stable, and productive while increasing diversity. Furthermore, a swale located along the northern edge of the site allows runoff from the north-facing path to slowly infiltrate into the built up berm found atop the sloped downhill food forest. The berm allows water to percolate into the rest of the slope while the swale is planted with comfrey and day-lilies, returning nitrogen into the soil. Students can study the medicinal, edible and agricultural uses of Comfrey as it’s great for compost, works as a salve, and can be made into a tea.

SUSTAINABLE FOOD PRODUCTION

Seeing as Burlington High school already houses a kitchen garden, a greenhouse and a Food Fighters club, our project aims to further foster community engagement with food education to provide learning opportunities and connections to the greater community:

a. Multifunctional Wave-Form Bench

On the north facing path, the site contains a bench made from recycled PVC pipes that in turn provide space for seating, growing veggies and a place for mason bee hives. The veggies are grown in 4” pipes laid horizontally, drilled with 2.5” holes 8” apart with fabric tied on either end for drainage. A drip irrigation system can be used during the summer to keep the plants watered. Additionally, situated between the existing school garden and our designed site, a long table made from recycled pallets and PVC pipes connects the two areas by acting as a space for large groups to gather for outdoor classes, lunch times, club meetings and as a look out area.

b. Perennial Food Forest

Looking down from the multifunctional bench is a small perennial food forest that mimics the structure and function of a forest ecosystem- with a canopy, mid-story, understory and ground cover. The food forest slows down precipitation and runoff while the different layers of edible plants promote high diverse yields, self maintenance, and a healthy ecosystem.

c. Red Canoes

Inspired by the native flowers that bloom in Vermont’s forests, brightly painted red canoes raised on stilts act as demonstration beds for sustainable nutrient cycling. The web of life below and aboveground contributes to nutrient cycling and availability, diversity, resilience, and various ecosystem services. As part of the schools science curriculum (learning the carbon + nitrogen cycle), each canoe is planted with different cover crops during fall and winter; one with red clover and the other with hairy vetch and buckwheat. Cover cropping reduce off site inputs and maximize nutrient availability. Specifically, cover crops maintains and improves soil quality, prevents erosion and, in some cases, allopathic weed control. From May onwards, plants started in the schools greenhouse can be transplanted outside to the canoes to harvested in the fall. The boats brightly painted colour draws attention to the nutrient cycles during each season and along with the planted cardinals and bee balm, attract pollinators such as the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Although our proposal is site specific to Burlington High school, the design is mobile and adaptable in that the materials for the bench and tables are easily found and altered accordingly to topography, number of users and context. More importantly, the designed elements allow people and wildlife to mix, inspiring a deeper appreciation and understanding of the natural environment. The Food Fighters Club, made up of students, parents, teachers, and community members, will manage ongoing maintenance and stewardship of the garden. While the nutrient cycling demonstration area and pollinator rain garden will require hands for maintenance, the idea of the food forest is that it will be self-maintained. Furthermore, the PVC pipe furniture allow students a place to gather as well as a testing ground for growing veggies horizontally, vertically, with hydroponics or aquaponics.

Flower Corridor

On the city scale, we propose the addition of flower corridors connecting the three sites to various farms and apiaries located in Vermont. The network of flower corridors will increase diversity for sustainable agriculture by providing habitat for beneficial insects and native species. Designated areas will be allocated a strip of land to act as a pathway for beneficials to move from the provided habitat to crops; in turn providing a home for natural predators and other beneficial insects, provide nectar and pollen for pollinators, and increase diversity and the complexity of interactions in the ecosystem.

CONCLUSION

Our design at Burlington Highschool aims to create an educational and vibrant space where students, teachers and wildlife mix. The proposed design encourage flows and cycles within the social and environmental spheres as a means to weave together storm-water management, sustainable food production and community engagement.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s