INDUSTRY CITY by Helen Zouvelekis

"Your father would love this place!" my mother repeated as I walked her through Industry City for the first time.

I venture to Industry City whenever I'm in the mood for a good weekend lunch, need to shop for gifts, or just want to check out a free show or exhibition, this is my go to spot. Industry City is a collection of enormous warehouses stationed in Brooklyn from 32nd to 37th Streets on Third Avenue, and from 39th Street to the waterfront on Second Avenue.

DanielleKachler_IndustryCity_DK-02.jpg

What used to be Bush Terminal - an intermodal shipping, warehousing, and manufacturing complex that covered 200 acres in the early 1900s - is now home to many diverse businesses including garment manufacturing, design/build firms, data centers, and warehousing. Occupying 6 million square feet, it is also a home to a tasty food hall, gaming rooms, retail shops, and event spaces. 

In the mid-1980s, Bush terminal was renamed to Industry City and renovations to modernize the historic infrastructure started in 2012. 

Industry City has become a meeting point for the international creative community, also taking part in NYCxDesign! In the past couple of years they have teamed up with Wanted Design and put on eleven days worth of events and workshops, as well as hosted their own Open Studios. This place is a thriving destination for cultural collaboration, entrepreneurs, startups, and much more.

Industry City offers a cheerful hangout during the holidays!

As Brooklyn emerges as a new hub for the design world, we’ve seen Industry City grow into a dynamic community of 21st century makers across a wide variety of disciplines.
— Andrew Kimball, CEO of Industry City
 

Industry City is a community that works together and still has so much growth and possibilities! Within just a few years it has really taken off and I'm excited to see what else they will bring to the area. I highly recommend Industry City to anyone looking for a fun weekend trip...check it out!

Please enjoy this video "Industry City - Anthem" for the full intensity and energy of this amazing place!

 

 Danielle Kachler

Danielle Kachler

I would love to hear back from you. If you have any thoughts, suggestions, or questions, click below!

 
 

Where the Rubber Meets the Road by Helen Zouvelekis

Okay, so the design phase is over, the contract documents are complete, and a general contractor (GC) has been awarded the contract. Now what?

For me, this is where the project gets really fun.

This, now, is the Contract or Construction Administration (CA) phase where, as they say, the rubber meets the road (who says this?). Months (or years) of hard work and late nights now become a reality.

The CA phase in the construction process is when the GC takes the design team's coordinated, detailed drawings and specifications and begins the building process. 

In a project on an existing site, the GC begins by preparing the site for construction. There are often times when some remedial demolition work or a walk-through with the landlord and client may need to be done in order to identify any issues with the site. The GC then begins the partition layouts, followed by the mechanical and electrical services layouts. Invariably the team will run into unforeseen conditions that were uncovered after demolition, or other potential issues. As the architect, we are the arbiters of the solutions to such challenges and how they may effect the design intent.

Site Observation

Additionally, the GC begins the shop drawing and submittal phase where they issue detailed drawings showing how they intend to construct the architect's design, be it millwork, metal work, or curtain wall assemblies. It is the architect’s responsibility to review and approve them, or return them with enough redlines to give direction on how to resubmit. The contractor’s may then have questions that are submitted in the form of a Request for Information.

Field Meeting with the Project Team

Sketching Details on Site

Graphic 7.jpg

Spacesmith Partner Jane Smith Sketching Out a Detail

Weekly visits and field reports are other tasks that are part of the architect’s scope. This is to allow the architect to become familiar with the progress of the construction. The GC is still responsible for the quality of the work and adherence to schedule and budget. By being aware of the site progress, the architect can also sign the contractor’s requisitions for payment. Any changes to the design at this stage, regardless of reason, is known as a change order. At the end of the project, the architect produces a punch list that identifies the items that require the GC’s further attention for repair or replacement .

Getting Up Close to a Detail

Reviewing Site Layout

Look at All the Potential!

It may not sound like it, but personally, this is the most interesting part of the entire design and construction process. After the many hours spent drawing and envisioning the design, you can begin to see it in reality. You can walk through the site to get a sense of the spatial qualities you were designing, see how the natural light interacts with the built environment, and, ultimately, watch how others experience your design.

Spacesmith Partner Marc Gordon Looking at a Detail

Spacesmith Associate Amy Jarvis Observing on Site

During CA, I speak with the builders and their subcontractors, such as the carpenters, the electrician, steamfitters, tin knockers, and millworkers, to name a few. Oftentimes they have tips from other project experience to help resolve a design issue or to even improve upon a detail. You learn that while we can draw to the 1/8”or 1/16” in Revit, construction detailing may require greater tolerances. As always, the contractor’s role is to build from your drawings as much as possible. When a conflict arises, I enjoy talking to the GC or their subs to hear/learn from everyone to come to a solution.

Construction Administration is the culmination of the team’s hard work in bringing a design to the real world. 


Will Wong

I would love to hear back from you. If you have any thoughts, suggestions, or questions, click below!

 
 

Opus 40 by Helen Zouvelekis

Last fall, I visited Opus 40, an amazing environmental sculpture park located in Saugerties, NY.

In 1938, Harvey Fite, an Amercian sculptor, painter, and one of the founders of Bard College's Fine Arts Department, purchased an abandoned bluestone quarry and began construction on what would become Opus 40. Over the next 37 years, Fite ended up creating a 6.5-acre labyrinth of stone.

The nine-ton monolith was set in place using techniques adapted from ancient Egyptians, and is held in place by its own weight and balance.

Swirling out from the nine-ton monolith, which is situated at the center of the site, are ramps, stairs, stone walls, and narrow subterranean paths, some as deep as 16 feet, with bridges connecting the overhead stone terraces. It was a beautiful and surreal experience walking through the cool dark corridors of stone which, depending on the path taken, would lead to the blinding sunlight found on the plateaus around the monolith, trees and pools, Outlook Mountain perfectly framed off in the distance, or seeing nothing but stone.

The layered paths create a fantastic play of light and shadows, highs and lows, open and closed, as you weave through and explore the sculpture, each nook becoming its own unique environment.

Although Fite spent much of his life working on Opus 40, it was not initially intended or designed to become what we see today. In 1938, Fite purchased this quarry as a site to build his home and art studio. During the summer of that year, he worked for the Carnegie Institute and helped to restore the ruins of the great Mayan civilization at Copan, Honduras. This work deeply affected him and, upon his return, Fite began experimenting on his own and testing the Mayan techniques with the stone in his quarry. He initially created various statues on the site, and began building walkways, steps and ramps to connect them, by using only traditional hand tools. Some 25 years later, when he was able to erect the monolith, which he found in a nearby stream, he began to see the whole site as a single sculpture and continued to work on it for the rest of his life.

Several structures exist on the site, including Fite’s private family home, a studio, and the Quarryman’s Museum

The site also includes Quarryman’s Museum, showcasing a large collection of indigenous tools of quarrymen, similar to the hand tools used by Fite to single-handedly create this extraordinary site. 

Quarryman’s Museum - A display of tools (below) at the Quarryman’s Museum

Harvey Fite at work, image source https://www.opus40.org/

Opus 40, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is open from Memorial Day weekend through October, Thursday-Sunday from 11:00am - 5:30pm. I would highly recommend a visit, next time you're near Saugerties.

 Alexandra Koretski

Alexandra Koretski

If you have any thoughts, suggestions, or questions, please click below!

 
 

How Startups Can Avoid Costly Real Estate Mistakes by Helen Zouvelekis

Recently, Commercial Observer published an article (advertorial) titled “4 Real Estate Mistakes Every Startup Should Avoid.” The article was authored by Breather, a global provider of on-demand meeting rooms. While Breather raises some very important issues and concerns as they relate to the real estate needs of startups, what it fails to do is mention that, by partnering with an architecture and workplace design firm, a startup can often avoid the four common, and often costly, mistakes mentioned in the article.

As a startup, or even an established company works with an architecture and workplace design firm, they will get the help needed to:

  • understand lease terms and contracts
  • find the right office location
  • know if the space is flexible enough for future growth

In addition, a planning firm can help a company figure out how best to:

  • determine the need, design and layout of certain types of spaces (e.g., collaborative, private, common, amenity, etc.)
  • accommodate the needs of service providers and/or clients that may visit the office
  • increase and promote employee well-being, productivity and morale through design
  • incorporate branding elements into the workplace

And, most important of all, by working with an architecture and design firm, startups can develop office spaces that aid in the retention and recruitment of talent!

 Roger Marquis

Roger Marquis

 

4 Ways to Achieve Acoustic Privacy by Helen Zouvelekis

Open plan offices offer a great deal of positive attributes and have become the go-to model in the last 20 years or so. They offer transparency, flat hierarchy, free up more space for shared amenities, and are almost always cheaper to build. However, there is a caveat that can keep employers from joining in on the trend: acoustic privacy.

Office Noise.jpg

Recent studies suggest that workers are up to 66% less productive when co-located with a person or group having an unrelated conversation. On the flip side of that, we all have a need to make private phone calls or talk about confidential projects that must not be overheard. In a traditional office plan these conversations would happen behind the closed doors of a private office. As we have embraced open plan, these types of spaces are becoming extinct. Only 8% of the workforce in offices built in the last year work in enclosed offices. There is clear need to address the issues of speech privacy in open plans in order for them to work for you.

Here are 4 ways of achieving acoustic privacy in your open plan workspace.


Minimal Impact:

The easiest way to approach the issue of distraction is on a personal level. The ubiquitous use of technology has stripped away the negative connotations that may have once surrounded the use of headphones in the workplace. Music or white noise can be a great way to zone out auditory distractions and focus on a task, particular repetitive tasks. This solution only helps with one of our problems, so what about when we want to keep others from hearing our conversation?

While wearing headphones all day probably isn’t appropriate, they could really come in handy if you need an hour or two to buckle down.

p0589cmc.jpg

On a Budget:

Acoustic privacy is an issue that everyone is taking notice of, even furniture manufacturers. If you are looking to improve your existing space or have a limited budget, there are a great number of products that can be employed. Soundproof curtains, felt wall pods, and high back chairs with sound absorbing materials are a great place to start your search. It is best to place the freestanding furniture away from noisy areas as they aren’t sound proof, only sound absorptive. If complete sound isolation is required, take a look at the next two options.

Telephone Booth:

Phone booths grew in popularity following the rise of open offices. These little pods can be bought off the shelf or customized to your needs. They tend to be small because of fire sprinkler codes and generally only accommodate one person at a time. If you need a larger booth, you will likely have to add a sprinkler head and maybe even HVAC, which might rule this option out for a retrofit application. Telephone booths are not meant to be used for extended periods of time or for a group of people, but they do offer a great oasis for a quick call.

New Construction:

Nothing beats original sound proof construction. This is the tried and true method used for conference rooms where confidentiality is important. The key here is selecting construction materials and methods that reduce sound transmission through the walls and ceilings. Gypsum walls should be sealed at the top and bottom, glass partitions and doors should be double glazed, and ceilings should be acoustically rated. Staggering back to back outlets or back boxes for TVs will help as well. This is the most expensive method of achieving acoustic privacy and also uses the most square footage, but it is also the most effective.

Acoustic Wall


Providing acoustic privacy is paramount if you want to get the most out of your employees and your open office. Whether you are looking to remedy a problem or are starting to think about building out a new space, there is an ocean of ideas and designs to draw inspiration from if you know where to look . As these four options show, aesthetic, cost, and impact are just a few of the variables that can help you decided which approach is best for you.

 Amy Jarvis   

Amy Jarvis

 

 

I would love to hear back from you. If you have any thoughts, suggestions, or questions, click below!

swirl arrow trans.png
 
 

Making Room for Dynamo by Helen Zouvelekis

Hello again!
For those of you that follow my interests (and my blogs), you know that I promised to embark on a more technical walk through of how to utilize Dynamo in order to make architects' and designers' lives a little easier. If you haven't read my last blog post, you can do so here (Diving into Dynamo).


To my fellow architects and designers out there (what’s up!), you may already know how certain tasks in Revit can be painfully tedious. Here, I will demonstrate the practical application of using Dynamo in Revit to stream-line room generation and organization. In particular, I will show you how to:

  1. Import a list of room names to be placed into your project
  2. Relocate the Revit’s room crosshair to be automatically located in the center of the room
  3. Use a model line to automatically renumber rooms

1. Import room names

For demonstration purposes, I put together a hypothetical office building. This was taken and edited from existing projects. My intention was to use a believable layout with a realistic program. I went ahead and planned out a list of spaces to import into Revit. 

01.jpg

A simple Dynamo script (I used elements from the BVN package) can easily take a list of rooms either in a code block (demonstrated below) or by importing an Excel file. I chose a code block because my list of rooms was relatively short. 

02.jpg

2. Centering rooms

After placing the rooms in their general location in my Revit model, I’m left with a somewhat messy layout. I’d like to clean it up a bit using the “Room.CentreLocation” Dynamo script.

03.JPG

As you can see, this script allows me to clean up my rooms with just a click of a button. This task, depending on the size of the project, could take anywhere from five minutes to one hour. 

04.jpg

3. Renumbering rooms

I saved the best for last. I think most architects and designers would agree that renumbering rooms in Revit can be an excruciatingly slow process. Dynamo can help with that! 

05.JPG

By utilizing this script, I am able to reference a model line as a spline and draw the order that I want the rooms to be in, as well as the numbering prefix that makes sense for the project and conforms to your office standards.

06.jpg

Ta-dah! Just like magic!

These steps may seem very trivial at a glance, but they can certainly shave off a significant amount of time. Of course I don’t have to explain to you how time is our most precious resource.

Until next blog!


I would love to hear back from you. If you have any thoughts, suggestions, or questions, click below!

 Katy Marino

Katy Marino

 
 

Measure Multiple Times, Design Once by Helen Zouvelekis

architectural-plans-measurement-tools-house-building-construction-spirit-level-tape-measure-39066997.jpg

There’s an old adage among professional and do-it-yourself builders; measure twice, cut once. Whether a person is building a bookshelf, installing carpet, cutting bathroom tile, framing a window, installing electric cable, etc., the thought is to make absolutely certain that the measurement for whatever needs to be cut, nailed, screwed, glued, cemented, etc. is correct because if not, it either means doing the job over again or settling for something that’s less than perfect.

In the realm of workplace design, I like to think of this adage, but with a twist. I like to say measure multiple times, design once. Let me explain.
 
When a company’s management team decides to design and build a new workplace there is a lot to consider. Location, size, and cost per square foot are the most obvious, but a myriad of other things need to be considered as well. For example, is there a need or interest to have open space, private space, and/ or collaborative space and, if so, to what extent? Is there a need or interest to have amenities, such as a café, bike storage, showers, quiet rooms, reading nooks, a game area, etc.? Is corporate branding an issue and, if so, to what extent does this get reflected in the design and layout of a workplace? Is there a need or interest in work benches or standing desks? Is there a preference for certain technology to be in the workplace, as well as lighting, security, audio/ visual, etc.?

As the list of design-related questions and/ or considerations builds, management needs to recognize and understand that the best way to answer these questions and/ or considerations is to survey the company’s employees because, after all, the majority of what’s to be placed in the workplace is for their daily use and benefit. It would also be prudent if management included some employee representatives and an architecture/ design firm in the creation of the survey itself so it can be as thorough and detailed as possible. 

Workplace Survey Graphics_Question 4.jpg

With survey responses in hand, management can then work with an architecture/ design firm (and budget) to determine how best to plan, layout, and construct the new workplace. From there, it’s a matter of the actual building and installation of what’s been specified and then, if all goes smoothly, the final move in.
 
For most, the assumption would be that the process stops there (i.e., measure once and design once), but it shouldn’t. As important and necessary as it is to survey employees upfront in the design process, it is just as important to survey employees post move-in. Because so much time, effort, and money was put into the design and construction of a new workplace, management should make certain its extrapolating the most out of it by way of employee satisfaction, use, and value. Within the first several months of being in the new workplace, employees should be surveyed again and asked about their new environment and if it is meeting their expectations in a variety of categories (e.g., seating, work spaces, technology, lighting, acoustics, branding, décor, amenities, etc.). If, through this post move-in survey, all seems well, great, but if not then the appropriate changes should be made as best as possible.

But, even here, the surveying should not stop. Since so much research has pointed to the correlation between the workplace and employee engagement and productivity, as well as talent recruitment and retention, a company’s management should take an active role in making certain, over time, that the workplace is designed and fitted out as best it can be. Hence, the need to measure multiple times.  

 
 Roger Marquis

Roger Marquis

 

Not Just ANY Other Spiral by Helen Zouvelekis

My architectural curriculum included art history where I learned about the new earthwork art movement­­—taking art out of galleries and museums and engaging the audience in a more encompassing experience. I then vowed to visit Robert Smithson’s earthwork masterpiece, his 1970 ‘Spiral Jetty’ sculpture located at Raze Point in Utah’s Salt Lake.

The sculpture consists of a counterclockwise spiral made of 6,500 tons of basalt that two dump trucks and one backhoe dumped into the lake along a pattern that Smithson had staked out.

The sculpture’s seemingly isolated setting was not accidental. Close to the Golden Spike National Historic Site and in eye sight of an abandoned oil refinery, the location reminded Smithson of his home town of Passaic, NJ; a town littered with old factories, quarries, and other remnants of the industrial revolution: abandoned hopes—ruins in the making.

Golden Spike 1869

Passaic, NJ Factories

All guidebooks advise would-be visitors to fill up their gas tanks and bring gallons of water, adding explicit warnings that there would be no Internet. Born before the age of the Internet, I felt fully prepared and braced for whatever was to come our way. With great anticipation, I filled the tank of our rented SUV, stocked up on drinks and snacks, and hoped for an impromptu adventure requiring my Boy Scouts’ rescue and survival skills. Pushing ahead, road signs vanished and the landscape opened up as fences disappeared and cows roamed freely; no other cars in sight. Just the outline of the meandering gravel road lay ahead of us, a foreboding desert landscape with the early April temperature rising fast.

What was he thinking, what possessed him?

Twenty bouncy and dusty miles later, we perceived the sculpture in the far distance. “Is that all it is?” I thought disappointingly as the dirt road died in an improvised parking area.

One’s first instinct would be to rush down and explore, yet we decided to hike to the nearby mount for an exploratory picnic. From this vantage point, the sculpture became alive within the still and lifeless waters of the Salt Lake. The earthwork feels minuscule within the lake’s vast 1,699 square miles (five times the area of New York’s five boroughs) with a 27% salt content. VERY salty, I did taste it. (Note that the human body contains 0.15% of salt, the oceans 3.5%, and the Dead Sea 33%.) Under the extreme heat, life moves at a very slow pace; no trees in sight, just rocks, low brushes, shrubs, and some occasional errand seagulls. Death is omnipresent.

In contrast, spirals symbolize creation, life, ever expanding growth in geometric perfection and were used by many ancient cultures to represent cosmic energy and sweet water. They are representative of the cyclical nature of life from birth to death to rebirth and can universally be found in every ancient culture throughout the world. (Rembrandt’s Philosopher, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Höweler + Yoon Architect’s Float Lab).

Rembrandt, Philosopher in Meditation 1632

Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night

Höweler + Yoon Architecture, Float Lab

Similarly the images of a labyrinth (combinations of circles and spirals) represent wholeness while the journey towards the center represents the journey to our own center, a metaphor for the path we walk throughout our lives. “The truth lies in the journey.”

Chartres Labyrinth

Within these opposing concepts, Smithson created the ‘Spiral Jetty’ embracing the design’s complexities and contradictions. Similarly, the sculpture is subject to the cycles of the environment. Smithson built the sculpture during a drought, fully aware of the lakes changing water level and color (at times pink or red depending on the salt and bacteria content).

Two years after completion, the sculpture totally disappeared underwater only to re-emerge twenty years later covered with salt crystals. Smithson himself anticipated that the sculpture would be subject to cycles of nature and environmental vicissitudes. With continued erosion over time, it would cease to exist, hence adhering to the concept of entropy: expression of disorder and randomness or the degradation of a system over time towards death and disorder. As such, the sculpture embodied both the spiral’s concept of life and growth, juxtaposed to entropy’s concept of destruction and disorder, all set within a mud bed of salt.

After lunch, we climbed down from our perch and made our way to the sculpture.

Just like in Gothic times, I walked the curve, round and round and round and round, feeling the push-pull of mass and void, rock vs. mud, under the hot sun of high-noon. The water’s shimmering reflections added to the site’s dizzying effect within a vast expanse of nothingness. In the sky, spiral like clouds were shaping.

The water’s shimmering reflections added to the site’s dizzying effect within a vast expanse of nothingness. In the sky, spiral like clouds are shaping.

Last time I experienced such a mesmerizing feeling of total awe was when visiting Stonehenge.

 
 Michel Franck

Michel Franck

 
 

Terra de Gotham- Architecture and Culture by Helen Zouvelekis

In 1980, the great Bossa Nova Master, Brazilian Antonio Carlos Jobim, released an album in collaboration with German composer Claus Ogerman entitled Terra Brasilis to re-launch some of Brazil’s most popular songs in America. Similar to prior examples of Bossa Nova in the US (João Gilberto and Stan Getz), the album brilliantly combined the carioca spirit bared by Jobim with Ogerman’s mastery of arrangement and the clear influence of the city where it was recorded, New York. It’s pretty noticeable: the city’s pulse, the multi-cultural influence, the complexity, and the cities claim over what should be a Brazil-Germany creation. It is one of the best albums ever recorded.

Terra Brasilis by Antonio Carlo Jobim

As with Terra Brasilis, my experience working as an architect and living in New York has been a constant process of expansion and revision, effecting my professional practice. Coming from an intense design experience in São Paulo, New York has brought me a depth of understanding the nature of working collectivley in a highly interdisciplinary setting; an acknowledgment of the design team beyond architecture and an embracement of the multiplicities of coordination in a more progressive manner. This is the essence of working in New York collaboratively with members of large consulting teams, as well as responding to the constant, changing demands from clients. 

 Davis Brody Bond - Collaboration

Davis Brody Bond - Collaboration

Architecture in São Paulo is more individualized. The architect develops all aspects of the design process. As cosmopolitan as São Paulo is (the most powerful city of Latin America along with Mexico City with a population of over 20 million people), many contextual factors constrain the flexibility in which construction can operate. In Brazil, the architect is a solitary figure that needs to overcome many technical limitations including low labor qualification and a ton of bureaucracies to make design a reality.

Economic power is the biggest asset of the United States over Brazil with more access to materials, human resources, technology, and capital. As one of the main converging points of the world financial market, New York has access to the science of the world and all it can generate. Also, the intense clash of culture and stimuli here creates a deeply inspiring environment where people are constantly challenged about their own absolute truths and ideologies. Skills are enhanced by ideas and expressions, collectively shared in sidewalks, parks, and subways. New York has renewed my belief in design and architecture, and proved to me that there are no unavailable options to be explored. Why can't design be more inspirational or provocative? As long as it fits the purpose culturally and programmatically, I don’t believe there is anything NYC can’t create.

São Paulo and New York City.

This is the power of New York City: to host the world’s plurality and offer the resources and perspective to empower original creations! It’s an everlasting loop of building, demolishing, transforming, and recreating. The perfect scenario for great design opportunities. This extraordinary experience in New York has certainly been a profound transformation process for me as an architect. It has integrated my own Brasilidade to its infinite diversity to produce something more powerful, full, and authentic.

  • Terra de Gotham - Land of Gotham
  • Brasilidade - a Brazilian authentic expression
  • Bossa Nova - a style of Brazilian music derived from samba, with more emphasis on the melody
  • Carioca – is a denomination used for anything that comes from Rio de Janeiro
 Pedro Pereira, Designer / Architect Davis Brody Bond   

Pedro Pereira, Designer / Architect Davis Brody Bond

 

 
 
 

 My Garden Experiment: Season 3 - Passive Design in Security  by Helen Zouvelekis

In season two of this gardening blog post, I discussed our extreme enthusiasm for having access to this hidden gem, the Bronx Community Garden. It was an incredible opportunity to grow our own organic vegetables and have a direct link from our garden bed to our kitchen table. We babied it by visiting, watering, pruning, and de-weeding daily or several times a day.

180526_Garden Bed 2.jpg

My last post was an effort to learn how to evolve and grow better stronger plants, now that I understood the space and its environment a bit better. Having had the experience of studying for the Architectural Registration Exams, I learned all about passive design. I took those ideas and created methods for better gardening. I made a presentation to the entire Bronx community of gardeners to share these ideas in an effort to empower gardeners to dig deeper, understand their own beds and environment, and learn to evolve their techniques based on facts.

From my last post (Our Own Little Garden Experiment) you can see I reorganized my plants according to their natural growing seasons, maximum height, and need for sunlight. After studying the effects of this experiment, we ended up with a more hearty and fruitful bed of vegetables and colorful flowers. When the season of some plants ended, it was timed so that the next one was flourishing. 

123180527_Garden Sketchbook copy.jpg

As this new growing season is beginning, I have decided to take my passive design strategies a bit further.

My experiment this season is how to deal with issues of security. I cannot afford to install cameras or other advanced methods of technology to prevent theft or curious hands, so the alternative is to look towards passive strategies.

I know the above paints a picture of flowers and vegetables galore, but not without lots of hard work and even more loss. We are lucky that our garden bed is 8' x 4’. It's a hefty amount of space for a two-person household. We had experience with theft by various means. The garden is required to be left open by the rules of the botanical garden. In those instances, people from within the community pass through and children run wild, things are picked, and plants are touched and often harmed. Another infuriating problem is gardeners themselves taking fruits. We also experienced entire plants being uprooted and taken, or rearranged because people thought they knew better.

Lastly, we have now come upon our latest and probably biggest problem: kitty cats! The garden recently had a family of cats move in. Their babies have now had babies. While our rat problem has been fully solved, we now have cats without the proper litter box, so, as you can probably imagine, our bed has fallen victim to some pungent new fertilizer. Now with all that being said, how do we passively design and arrange our garden bed to eliminate or lessen this threat? 

Having two cats myself, we have learned that they hate spicy things so much that we decided to coat everything with jalapeño juice. I also read up how they hate citrus, peppers, or prickly things. We have decided to do a few things this year: 

  1. Coat the surrounding wood frame with jalapeño juice. Sprinkle and mix red crushed pepper into the soil. Because of the high heat drying method of the manufacturing process of red crushed pepper, there is no threat of these seeds becoming plants. 
  2. Infuse the garden soil with a mixture of the natural soil we get yearly, gravel, and mulch as a cover. This will make for a prickly sensation for any animal that decides to walk on it. It also helps plants grow better and retains the moisture from watering and rain. The summer months can be rough on plants with soil typically drying out quickly. 
  3. I have a deep love and curiosity for all things cacti. I have them all over my apartment and had them as centerpieces at our wedding. They are resilient plants that surprisingly do need love and the right kind of attention. They also require lots of sun. Most people know them for having spikes or prickly things that get in our skin. I have rehoused our cacti into the garden bed for the summer season with the intention of moving them back to my apartment during the cold months.
180526_Cactus 0.jpg
180526_Zoomed Cactus 1.jpg

My apartment only maximizes natural sunlight for about 2 hours a day. This means that with the right amount of water, they will never stop growing, but they will most likely never thrive. By moving them to the garden during the peak heating months, we benefit from full access to sunlight, and (bonus) curious adults and children who decide to poke around may learn their lesson after rubbing against one. 

Our goal at the end of this season is to have learned how to eat healthier by understanding where our food came from and the hard work it took for them to get to our table. All we want is a peaceful environment with a little patch of land that is ours.

In the fall, we will see if any of this works. 

 Olga Anaya

Olga Anaya