Green Square: UW Tower Urban Garden Demonstration

Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF: $59,730

Letter of Intent:

The UW tower is the gateway to the University, it hosts the office of accounting, advancement, international exchanges, and many others.  Furthermore, the new link rail station is being build on the other side of the street, making it the first building many strangers will see when they come to the U-District.  It is important that the building reflect the sustainable mission of the University, and currently is does not. 

The University of Washington Tower plaza has a potential to become an example of the transformative power of greenery in turning a harsh urban environment into an oasis of life and beauty.  The tower plaza is surrounded by bare concrete walls, covered in brick and contains a few bulky concrete planters.  A few years ago, the green team started an urban garden project in the plaza.  It was small scale, but very successful in engaging coworkers by organizing movie events and giving out fresh produce.  We want to build on the project started by the Green Team and make it bigger and better.

We want the new edible garden to incorporate more vertical space, such as green screens.  We want it to be more educational and involve the community in creative ways.  We plan on designing a temporary urban garden that includes green screens, planters with a variety of edible and native plants, and a place for people to relax and enjoy the outdoors during their lunch break or after work.  The idea is to design something is the style of a parklet; a temporary platform that incorporates benches, planters, and green screens all in one structure.  It is somewhat of an art installation which calls for creativity and ingenuity.  The end result will be aesthetically pleasing and vibrant, a place for people to learn about growing edible plants and enjoy the outdoors.  Most importantly, it will advance to the University of Washington’s reputation in sustainability and innovation.

Explanation of how the project will meet the requirements and preferences of the CFS:

Environmental Impact

The main focus of the project is to educate people of the potential of growing food in a strictly urban environment.  It would connect people to the food system and entice them to start their own edible gardens at home.  The urban garden could potentially provide food for the UW tower and help localize the food system.  It would furthermore provide a habitat for animals and pollinators, leading to an increase in biodiversity.  The garden would also incorporate a water-capture system.

Student Leadership & Involvement

We foresee three phases of this project: design, construction, and maintenance.  Student involvement is critical for each.  We want this to be a multidisciplinary project which will involve students from many different majors.  Landscape Architecture and Environmental Science students would be involved in the design, construction would be carries out by Industrial Design and Construction Management students (with oversight of a contractor).  Students from any major can be involved in maintenance, preferentially it would be someone who is working at the UW tower.  Since there is no complicated technology involved, and the project can be constructed in a studio and then transported in part to the plaza, we believe that students can be the primary designers, constructors, and leaders in this project.

Education, Outreach, & Behavior Change

As mentioned above, the main aim of the garden is to showcase the potential for growth in harsh urban environment.  A secondary educational aspect is that of the food system, and the importance of urban agriculture in localizing the food system and decreasing carbon footprints.  Passerby’s will be inspired and hopefully try to start their own gardens at home.  In addition, we hope that people realize the benefit of urban agriculture and support such projects in the future.  Once the garden starts growing enough produce, we plan to organize a little farmer’s market on the plaza which could also incorporate produce from the UW farm.

Feasibility, Accountability, & Sustainability

The yearly budget that the green team received is not enough to design and construct a project of the scope we have in mind.  This is where we need most assistance.  It is enough to hire a student to maintain the area after it it constructed.  Furthermore, this project is part of the Carlson Center, and receives quarterly service learners (such as myself) to help in any way possible.  We can thus assure the sustainability of the project.  We have reached out to faculty around the campus, and have already received interest in the project.  We plan of having students work on the design and construction either for extra credit, as a capstone project, or as an internship.  The green team at the UW tower will play a big part in this project, they are familiar with the requirements of the UW Tower for such project, and have experience with projects in the past.

We are asking for $59,730 in total.  $5,700 will be spent on the design phase, $44,530 on construction, and $8,500 for maintenance. 

Primary Contact First & Last Name: Cheryl Wheeler