Design for Beacon
Beacon Food Forest, located just southwest of Jefferson Park on Beacon Hill, is a community garden project rooted in permaculture. This food forest, which broke ground in 2010, is using a gardening technique that simulates a woodland ecosystem but substitutes in edible plants. The Beacon Hill community teamed up with University of Washington’s Neighborhood Design/Build Studio to create a central gathering space for the forest.
The site for the structure is located at the southeast corner of Jefferson Park at the entrance of the sloped garden, on a 2,000 SF semi-circular gravel pad. Stacking functions is not only a priority of permaculture but also a necessity on this small site. Generated at a community meeting, the program requires this space to be both the kitchen and living room for the entire garden; this zone will provide spaces for harvesting, food preparation, tool storage, classes, and performances.
At the beginning of the quarter, the Design Build studio explored a brief furniture project. The challenge was to use 1 sheet of ¼” plywood and one 2×4, with as little waste as possible. There were a wide variety of projects including a headboard, stepping stool, dining room table, chairs and benches. The studio also created load-bearing foundations using a single sheet of paper. These experiments were designed to introduce basic woodworking and structural knowledge through hands on application.
It was time to jump into the design for the Beacon Food Forest. Working in three groups of six and rotating members every studio session, the design was able to build on itself with clarity and consensus. The schematic design strives to frame the view of the downtown skyline while creating protection from the wind and rain on this exposed slope. The design responds to the programmatic needs of the community with a series of pre-fabricated wood-frame modules.
The third week the studio met with community stakeholders to present design drawings and models, and collect feedback. It is a rare opportunity in architecture school to build something permanent, and meeting with the client’s added valuable insight into the process. The design was improved to incorporate more shelving and workspace and the plan was adjusted to a more intimate scale.
The class produced a set of construction documents to reference during the building process. Many of the students had not produced a drawing set before and it was a slow turn-over, learning to put enough information in the drawing to be able to hand it over to someone to build. One module was employed making the structures similar in form, but varying in function to include covered benches, counter space, utilitarian tool sheds, and a stage. The design compliments the existing landscape plan while remaining adaptable as the food forest develops and grows.
There are lots of volunteers planting on the food forest site and not a lot of space for staging, therefore the project was built pre-fab in the CEP department’s facility at Sandpoint. The units were designed on a repeatable module, so the framing and bases came together quickly. The units were also constructed so that they could be easily disassembled for transportation to the site. The studio focused on efficiency of construction, and kept cost to a minimum by selecting few materials that could be used in many assemblies.
The studio is in the process of moving the structure to Beacon Food Forest – Please join us for the Ribbon Cutting on June 13th from 5:30-8:30 in Jefferson Park. Cheers!
Written by Erica Brissenden and Emily Perchlik