MSU landscape architecture students win national design challenge

February 1, 2016 -  By

Undergraduate and graduate landscape architecture students from Mississippi State University (MSU) won the 2015-16 Come Alive Outside Design Challenge.

Now in its third year, the competition challenged students from MSU, Auburn University, Hinds Community College and Louisiana State University to design an outdoor spot that would help the Memphis Catholic Middle School and High School better utilize existing green space.

The competition was organized and executed in partnership with nonprofits Come Alive Outside of Asheville, N.C., and The Kitchen Community of Boulder, Colo., along with Memphis-based landscape design/build firm Michael Hatcher & Associates.

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.

His firm, which began implementing the first phase of the winning design in December, funded the design challenge teams’ trips to Memphis in October. There, they had the opportunity to meet with from landscape professionals and Memphis Catholic Middle School and High School students and teachers.

After completing a site and program analysis, creating a concept and reviewing the budget and regulatory conditions, each team was given a $10,000 budget and three-week deadline to turn their concepts into designs.

In addition to integrating the creative input of Memphis Catholic’s students and teachers, the teams’ designs had to incorporate a Certified Wildlife Habitat and address how to effectively utilize and manage 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.

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 and a vertical herb wall.

Additionally, team members reimagined an existing Marian Shrine Garden Cathedral on-site by restoring and reusing existing benches and building a wooden trellis to formalize the sanctuary into a meditative, peaceful space.

Cory Gallo, associate professor of landscape architecture, served as the faculty adviser for the MSU team comprised of graduate students: Opeyemi Bakare of Nigeria; Michael Keating of Starkville, Miss.; Yazan Mahadin of Jordan; and Ying Qin of China.

Three undergraduate students also took advantage of this learning opportunity by voluntarily assisting with the project in their spare time.

“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.”

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