You have 5 min. to design Earth House's garden

  • 3 min to read
You have 5 min. to design Earth House's garden

Keep Indianapolis Beautiful

  • The fruits of a 2011 Greenspace project at Earth House.
  • Photo courtesy Keep Indianapolis Beautiful

Feb. 28, 10 p.m. - The Platform's John Beeler checks in with this clarification/addendum: "KIB and The Platform are customizing each design process to each neighborhood; in this case, a 'gamified' competitive design process made complete sense for Earth House. In other neighborhoods though, the design process will look different. What we're trying to do is customize a design process that fits each neighborhood's own personality, style and mode. In one neighborhood, for example, I think 'kitchen table' design sessions are more appropriate than a Top Chef-esque Design Crunch. Another one might meet at a locally franchised Dairy Queen. And I think we're looking at a Skype-in from national experts for another park."

Well, more than that, really. Keep Indianapolis Beautiful is taking a little different approach with this year's edition of IPL Project Greenspace, a program that has since 1995 helped neighborhoods, schools and other community groups to revitalize vacant lots, medians and other dead zones.

Four of this year's 10 Greenspace projects will be designed in collaboration with community design workshop The Platform, in a process incorporating the input of both community members and experts across disciplines. The Earth House Greenspace project will be designed, at least in part, via a competitive charette involving not only landscape designers (usually the go-to experts for KIB), but also experts from related fields, including designers, engineers and artists.

(For those living outside of the design world — like this writer — a charette is something of a structured brainstorm, a collaborative process during which a group of people come up with a solution to a particular problem, usually by separating into sub-groups that then present ideas to the collected group.)

The charette, branded as Design Crunch, takes place 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Earth House; anyone with ideas to contribute can attend, with registration encouraged. Competitors will set to work designing one of four different elements of the Earth House garden — vertical planting structures, a bike rack, a lettuce wall and raised beds — all of which will be made from recycled or repurposed materials. Designs will then go up for a vote, and the best of them will head to the drafting stage, with help available for those without sufficient technical expertise.

KIB is partnering on the charettes with The Platform, a newly-founded design community center soon to take residence in the West Wing of the City Market. Greenspace projects are also planned for the Irvington, Martindale-Brightwood and Mapleton-Fall Creek areas, among others; check out for complete information.

Matt Hostetler, Greenspace director at Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, fielded a few questions about the project.

NUVO: How did this come about?

Matt Hostetler: Every year, we have an IPL Project Greenspace Program, the goal of which is to engage community and neighborhood organizations to transform unloved places into community assets. We decided to work with The Platform in helping us to develop a new approach to how we design these spaces. We really felt like the charette would be a good way to incorporate community input and to allow designers from different disciplines to work collaboratively with each other.

NUVO: Are there any drawbacks to putting a time limit on developing these idea — or is it a matter of the charette process giving people that extra fuel to come up with good ideas?

Hostetler: Yeah, it's almost the fuel that makes it work. The idea is not necessarily that we'll have a completed design at the end of the day; there'll still be some refinement, taking something that's more conceptual to an actual planting plan. The idea is to get a lot of input, a lot of design ideas and then pick and choose as we move forward with the process. There may be stormwater engineers and landscape architects there, as well as stakeholders from the Earth House, neighbors and the general community.

NUVO: So how do you think will this multi-disciplinary approach will work out, specifically, at the Earth House?

Hostetler: We want all of our projects to have placemaking value, in creating places where people want to be. We want them to have environmental benefit and community impact. We hope these projects we're involved in not only benefit that space but the wider community they're in. And we want them to be places that are maintained over the long term. Working with landscape architects who might understand how the landscape relates to the building, or stormwater engineers who might understand how water falls off the roof and have it infiltrate back into the ground — all of those things work together to create that comprehensive, more holistic, plan.

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