Monday, November 14, 2011

Mission High School Greening Project

I have been a long time resident and fan of the Mission District, and of course the Mission Basilica, the birth place of the city of San Francisco. When I found out I had the opportunity to work on the design of the gardens for Mission High School, I was absolutely honored, such a beautiful and historic building.
 I wanted to do a design that reflected the history and the architecture of the building

The courtyards were built in traditional Spanish style, beautiful but in different stages of disrepair. I had this odd feeling of having just stepped into Havana, Cuba.

I took my first  design clues from the ceiling of the main lobby, which was covered in Moorish  geometry

I wanted to incorporate that same design pattern and apply it to the courtyard. Can't go wrong with geometry on a traditional Spanish courtyard

 So here are the initial concept designs

The Jay Pugano and the students at Mission High created this video where I present the concept ideas to the school community

The original design has a zome at the center, which everybody loved. Unfortunately  the funding we had was not enough for the zome, but we are looking at ways to fund-raise and make the zome a reality as an outdoor classroom/ art piece.

The design was approved by the school community so we moved forward with the construction, which had to be completed during the summer while the students were out on vacation

It was very exciting to see all that concrete broken down and allowing the earth beneath it to breath again

The funding for this project came from  Proposition A Bond Program which is financed, in large part, by two local bonds passed by San Francisco voters in November 2003 and November 2006. These are facilities bonds, intended to improve SFUSD school sites by bringing them into Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance.

The San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance was able to successfully advocate for schoolyard greening by securing a portion ($7 million) of the  Proposition A voter-approved school bonds. 

This money was distributed  amongst 45 elementary schools in SFUSD which received $150,000 to green their schoolyards. Mission High School was allowed to apply for a grant to get some of this funding too.

They were awarded $100,000 for this project, which might sound like a lot, but turns out that concrete removal in SF is very expensive. So we focused our funds on the removal of the concrete and the placing of infrastructure (planter beds, irrigation, etc)

The planting was going to be left out to be done by the students and the school community.
That is the fun part anyway, so basically we wanted to create a canvas for the students to be able to plant and create a garden

It was exciting to the stars from my design come to life

Accessible raised planters were installed

 Sub drain irrigation was installed for the stars 

The pathways were filled with decomposed Granite and the planting areas with soil

The stars were planted with no mow turf

The small courtyard got planter beds  with wide seating edges so that the students could sit on them and eat their lunch there.

By the end of the summer the students came back to two remodeled courtyards with plenty of space to plant a garden, however much work still needs to get done by them. 

They got started right away and most of the planters on the small courtyard have been planted.

It is beautiful to see this space get transformed by each of the students giving it a personal touch.

For the past four years I have built a public altar for day of the dead at Garfield Park. This year I had surgery and I was not up for the task. I was excited when my friend Karina Borgogno shared her idea of building an altar for Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and founder of the Green Belt Movement. Wangari was an inspiration to Karina and her idea was to have an altar made of all living edible trees, plants, herbs. I was happy to participate at the altar building as support and help her. I suggested we donate the trees and plants to Mission High after the event.

Here is Karina talking to the kids about Wangari and telling them the story of the hummingbird.

With the help of the students, we planted 2 fig trees and two plum trees. 2 on each courtyard.

Big Thanks to Susan Boshoven, Biology teacher who coordinating the planting with her students and who has done a lot of work for the Greening project at Mission High

It was a really fun day and Karina showed those kids how to plant trees
Thank you to all the students who participated.

Thank you Karina for being a humming bird with me


Sue B said...

Its been a labor of pure love.

Brian Fox said...

You are the gift that keeps on giving!! First the brains behind the courtyard designs then the tree planting of fruit trees, then a beautiful blog illustrating the history of this terrific adventure. I have been working with Susan and others on the gardens, fundraising, etc. and would love to meet you in person when you have time. Still interested in the Zome...

Algarden said...

Thanks Brian, that s a really sweet comment. I like to meet you too, I live really close to MHS so I could stop by any time. I'm glad you are still interested on the zome, we need to create a kickstarter fundraising page.

Sue B said...

We are having a meeting tomorrow in my classroom. Hope thats not too soon. Lunch tomorrow at 11:21 am. More like brunch without mimosas;
Bring bulbs if you have them.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Patricia! It was a pleasure to read and to see illustrated your design process and the completed courtyard garden.

I hope you will share your work with CED on LinkedIn.

-- Georgia