A throng of Rhode Island School of Design students recently unveiled a beautiful new community garden in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Over the past few months, 72 first-year architecture students have designed and constructed a public event space and garden to be shared by the neighboring YMCA, elderly housing development, and church. Thanks to arainwater catchment system and beds built from reclaimed pine, the project has a minuscule environmental footprint. But what’s truly sustainable about it is how it connects neighboring residents to nature and to each other. The garden just opened on May 26, and we were on the scene to bring you all the details of the green project.

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The elderly residents of the housing development will have the opportunity to grow and pick their own food in a purpose-built environment. The student designers placed ramps at the entrances of both the gardens and the event space to ensure that they are wheelchair-accessible. Furthermore, they attempted to encourage social interaction by creating garden beds that are large enough that more than one person at a time will tend them. The open-air pavilion already serves as a wonderful gathering space for the gardeners, churchgoers and children. We hope that the extended beds will bring everyone out from the pavilion and into the sunshine together.

The new structures will also complement the lessons of YMCA teachers and host events for the church. According to one YMCA representative, children can learn simple calculations by observing the flow of water from the garden building’s butterfly roof to its rainwater catchment system. Once the garden has been planted, they can help water the plants and marvel as melons and peas climb up the beds’ elegant wire trellising.

The beds themselves were built entirely from pressure-treated pine that was reclaimed from a local highway project. Ordinarily the chemicals in pressure-treated wood pose a health issue when used in gardens, but the students thoughtfully lined the beds to avoid any leaching.

+ RISD School of Architecture

Lead photo © Jessica Luscher