What began as only a community garden site has turned into a one-of-a kind project for UH’s Graduate Design/Build Studio, a part of the University of Houston’s Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture. This summer, graduate students are working on a solar-powered outdoor classroom in a community garden in Alief.
The structure will serve as a place for individuals to cool off and will also serve as a classroom area for lessons in gardening. It will be accessible to all community members.
For the past 23 years, GB/BS has designed community projects in the Houston area. Every year a new location is chosen for renovation based on which sponsors apply. GD/BS Director Patrick Peters is the leader of this project.
“Its purpose is two-fold — to provide a shady respite from the heat in an area with little existing shade and to a mark the community garden with a strong vertical presence in a flat, open area lacking significant landmarks that break the horizon,” Peters said.
“I am confident that it makes them much better architects and am pleased that they usually realize and value this fact sometime during or soon after the studio.”
The classroom will be powered by four solar panels and was designed in such a way that the slanted roof will allow rainwater to be collected into barrels and used later in the garden. Susan Rogers, an architecture professor, helped with the site plan last summer.
“We planted an orchard, trees and a path where the structure is being placed,” Rogers said.
This is the second solar-powered project GD/BS has done. The first was at McReynolds Middle School in Denver Harbor last summer.
“The reception has been enthusiastically warm and supportive. They can’t wait for it to be in place so they can use it,” Peters said.
The Houston Spark Park Program, along with the Alief Independent School District, is funding the construction.The project is expected to be completed by August.