Undergraduate and graduate landscape architecture students from Mississippi State University have won the 2015-2016 “Come Alive Outside Design Challenge.”
Organized and managed in partnership with nonprofits Come Alive Outside of Asheville, North Carolina, and The Kitchen Community of Boulder, Colorado, along with Memphis-based landscape design/build firm Michael Hatcher and Associates, the competition is now in its third year.
This year’s challenge – tackled by landscape architecture teams from Auburn University, Hinds Community College and Louisiana State University, in addition to MSU – was to design an outdoor spot that would help the Memphis Catholic Middle School and High School better use its existing greenspace.
Co-sponsor Hatcher, a 2008 MSU banking and finance graduate, already had been working with The Kitchen Community to design and build school and community gardens throughout the Memphis area.
Hatcher’s firm, which began implementing the first phase of the winning design this past December, funded all the challenge teams’ trips to Memphis in October. While there, team members met with landscape professionals as well as students and teachers from Memphis Catholic Middle School and High School.
After completing a site and program analysis, concept development and review of the budget and regulatory conditions, each team was given a $10,000 budget and three-week deadline to turn their concepts into finished designs.
Along with integrating the creative input of Memphis Catholic’s students and teachers, the teams’ designs had to incorporate a Certified Wildlife Habitat and address the effective use and management of rainwater, all in a manner that would engage one’s five senses.
Ultimately, the MSU team created a concept called The Cellular Learning Garden. Based on the idea of the cell as the basic building block of life, the plan integrated educational, physical and spiritual components.
According to the team’s project narrative, the butterfly and wildflower garden fulfilled the Certified Wildlife Habitat requirement. The design also featured a rain garden with a cistern that provided water for a pond, as well as an art wall that displayed the movement of water and served as a gathering space for exploring the butterfly garden.
The MSU team members reimagined an existing Marian Shrine Garden Cathedral onsite by restoring and reusing existing benches and building a wooden trellis to formalize the sanctuary into a more meditative, peaceful space.
Cory Gallo, associate professor of landscape architecture, served as the faculty adviser for the MSU team, which was comprised of graduate students Opeyemi T. Bakare of Nigeria; Michael P. Keating of Starkville; Yazan Mahadin of Jordan; and Ying Qin of China.
Gallo said three undergraduate students also took advantage of this learning opportunity by voluntarily assisting with the project in their spare time. They included Justin J. Gandy of Starkville; Elizabeth L. “Lis” Robison of West Point, who is also pursuing a bachelor’s in landscape contracting; and Abbey K. Wallace of Madison.
“The MSU landscape architecture program strives to be nationally ranked, and this project helps spread the school’s recognition for producing talented and thoughtful students,” Gallo said. “I think this winning project shows that our students have a good grasp of design issues and are able to clearly express their ideas.”
Sadik Artunc, professor and head of MSU’s Department of Landscape Architecture, said the project fit perfectly with his department’s mission to “foster the will and ability to plan, design, build and manage regenerative communities.”
You can find a video about MSU’s participation in the competition here: