Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Healdsburg Elementary School Garden

Healdsburg Elementary School boasts one of the longest standing gardens of any elementary public school in the Healdsburg Area (not to mention high schools and junior highs).   At the present time the school's parents are doing the least expensive (yet very effective) thing that can be done to improve a community garden: Weeding.  As a designer I want to believe there are planning ideas that can be introduced here that would significantly improve the garden for the children.  It is easy to imagine there are ideas that "crack the code" of the garden's challenges.  

There is no code to weeding except perhaps Teacher Vikki's cautionary: "Don't puncture the irrigation line with the spade fork."  

The reality of a successful contribution, however modest, is just as often the simple act of documenting any productive idea in a way that allows people to work shoulder to shoulder on a shared cause.  This is probably not why many go into architecture but it is one worthy undertaking of the profession that is under-represented.  Samuel Mockabee's work is certainly a testament to tapping a collective need that can travel under the popular radar.  

It is true that when you illustrate a new idea in a way that people find provocative there is a kind of alchemy that comes from the raw materials and people's labor that borders on miraculous.   But just as often architect's are capable of introducing ideas that, however interesting, are out of step with the milieu for which they are being proposed.  This can result in a lot of waste and it is probably one reason why the peace corp makes it a motto to not introduce new technologies to the cultures in which they work.  In this sense good architectural ideas are conjured equally from pure creativity and the simple habituation of the architect to the community's needs. 

 Comparing Samuel Mockabee's approach to development in California, makes it painfully clear it is possible to go a whole lifetime here without ever working on an authentic need-based project.  This effort is something that requires intention apart from the effort involved in simply designing things.  Teacher Vikki's Garden at HES feels like the kind of work Samuel Mockabee would be proud of.

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