UA Master’s in Landscape Architecture students present their landscape design

By Adriana Zuniga
05/01/18 12:01:pm

University of Arizona (UA) Master in Landscape Architecture students recently presented a landscape design for STAR Academic High School to a jury composed of school representatives, Rene Corrales (Star Academic High School), and members of the team Tucson Verde para Todos, including Andrea Gerlak (UA School of Geography & Development and Udall Center), Joaquin Murrieta (Watershed Management Group), Claudio Rodriguez (TYLO), and Adriana Zuniga (UA CAPLA and Udall Center). The UA students presented in two teams (for the east and west parts of the school campus) that worked to stitch together a master plan.

The design, part of the graduate course LAR 551 Design Studio, was held by Prof. Bo Yang from UA’s CAPLA. The design of the school campus captured the input from the school community and provided great ideas for a makeover of the place using passive water harvesting systems as well as active systems.It also included a number of other sustainability strategies, including a composting area, a place to grow chickens, restrooms that use composting toilets, parking shaded by solar panels, an amphitheater, a monarch butterfly garden, a vegetable garden, outdoor classrooms, multiple spaces for seating, plenty of shade, art pieces, and more.

The project can be traced to Yang’s visit to STAR in fall 2017. In meetings with high school students about landscape design, Bo became interested in using this site for his future first year design studio class for graduate students enrolled in the Master in Landscape Architecture degree program at UA. While Prof. Yang prepared for his class, we asked Dr. Corrales to help us gather input from the school community on what they would like to see in the landscape design. Dr. Corrales and I designed a brief survey that captured the most pressing needs of the students, faculty and staff at STAR. For the science class, the students used this social science methodology to collect data and analyze it.

Using the survey data, Prof. Yang introduced the project to his LAR 551 Design Studio class. They studied the site, the flow of stormwater, the existing vegetation, and more. Then they visited the school where the students presented some design ideas to the STAR students and faculty. They also toured the site guided by high school students in small groups, allowing he UA students were able to collect qualitative information on the needs of the STAR Community.

The design effort has been part of a larger with school officials, teachers, and students at STAR Academic High School, located along the Liberty Bike Boulevard in the south of Tucson. Team members of the Tucson Verde para Todos project, a Haury-funded project aimed at engaging stakeholders around green infrastructure, have visited with school administrators, faculty, and students, including Marsha Flores (principal at STAR), Dr. Rene Corrales (science teacher at STAR), Dr. Eugenia Favela (Assistant Superintendent of the Sunnyside School District) over the past 10 months. During these engagements, we have discussed the flooding and heat issues experienced in this area of the city, and how this affects the community in general, and how landscape design characterized by green infrastructure can alleviate some of these challenges.

With feedback from the jury, the students plan to refine their designs and present the final version to the school community in early May 2018. Through our engagement activities, the school community has been learning about the potential benefits of green infrastructure design for their school campus, and the educational opportunities it can provide for students. Our plans for the fall include the implementation of a section of the design, using funds from the UA Green Fund that we recently received. Things are getting cooler at STAR Academic High School.