Landscape architecture students put their skills to the test

Dec 13, 2013

Design Studio V

Michael Fleischacker, chair of the Landscape Architecture and Environmental Sciences department talks with Richard Patterson '14 (left), and Christopher Casola '13, about the vertical garden they created for their classroom.

Students in a Delaware Valley College design studio will hear the soothing sound of water trickling through plants and into a pond while they work. A new, vertical garden now covers part of a wall in room 5 of the Arthur Poley Greenhouses on DelVal’s main campus. The self-sustaining, living wall is one of the class projects landscape architecture students worked on during the fall 2013 semester. Students in the College’s Design Studio V course worked in three groups of two for six weeks on projects of their choice. Two groups built their projects, which will stay in the classroom, and one group developed a design concept for Doylestown.

“Projects like these really fit in with the College’s focus on providing both knowledge and experience,” said Michael Fleischacker, chair of the Landscape Architecture and Environmental Sciences department. “I try to integrate projects with real stakeholders and real sites into the program. We have students who are really passionate about what they do and being able to bring that out into projects they see every day just adds to that passion.”

Christopher Casola ’13, and Richard Patterson ’14, created the classroom’s vertical garden using recycled wood pallets because they’re widely available and they wanted to find a better use for them.

Vertical gardens usually partially or completely cover a wall, appeal to senses, such as sight and sound, and also, improve a room’s air quality.

They mounted four of the pallets on the wall and then, used pieces of pallets to build the box, which surrounds the pond. Water trickles down into the pallets through holes in tubes and the extra goes back into a pond at the bottom. The plants feed the fish and the waste from the fish serves as fertilizer for the plants. The students spent about 250 hours and $500 on the project, which is made of both new and recycled materials.

“We wanted to change the classroom environment and do something we’ve never done before,” said Patterson. “It’s something we’ve been talking about for a long time and it’s going to allow other students, as well as prospective students, to see what we can do when they visit.”

Feeney’s Wholesale Nursery, Bucks Country Gardens and Aquascapes Unlimited helped the group with supplies for the project.

Alexandra Heigh ’14, and Michael Domitrovits ’14, developed an idea for turning the Bucks County Court House into an oasis with tropical plants, a small waterfall and areas for offices, restaurants and shops after it is replaced by the new Justice Center.

Their design, “Gateway to the Soul of Doylestown,” included a rooftop that would collect rainwater for the plants. The design is just a concept at this point, but the students would like to share the suggestions with the town.

“It’s an important part of Doylestown and we really learned a lot about the site’s history to do this project,” said Heigh. “Our hope is that Doylestown will take a look at it and maybe implement some of our concepts.”

Doylestown concept

Alexandra Heigh ’14, and Michael Domitrovits ’14 present their concept for Doylestown in class.

To create their design the students looked at the stakeholders involved, the climate and environment, the soils, geology and the way water flows through the area. They also looked at case studies to find ideas for making the project use less energy and, looked at other sites such as Central Park for ideas.

The third group, Ryan Miller ’13, and Ian Riley ’13,  created a 10-person conference table for their classroom.

The cherry top is made from two halves of the same tree and took six people to bring in. The top’s weight was one of their design challenges. To solve this challenge, they created a base, inspired by a bridge, which includes cables pulling the weight toward the center.

conference table

 Ian Riley ’13, and Ryan Miller ’13, created a 10-person conference table for their classroom.

Another challenge was using both cement and wood on the top.

“It inspires you, and I think it is going to allow future design students to overcome hurdles in their own designs,” said Riley.

The table is already being used as a teaching tool to show students what they can learn about a tree by looking at the wood.

Fleischacker wants the studio to be a unique place on campus and would also like to see the students take on even more design projects.

“If there are opportunities for projects in the community or across campus. We’d be really open to that,” said Fleischacker.