Students Dig In At Opportunity Village

Three University of Oregon Landscape Architecture classes are collaborating with SquareOne and Opportunity Village Eugene (OVE) to create a more livable environment at OVE through gardening and appropriate technology. Under the design initiative called “Landscape for Humanity”, students from Yekang Ko’s Sustainable Energy Landscapes course and Jacques Abelman’s Food Systems seminar developed a variety of innovative, flexible, low-cost projects centered around gardening, smart-irrigation, and shade and cooling features, aided by research from students in Kory Russel’s course, Design for a Sustainable World.

The student projects are designed specifically for OVE but generalize to any low-income, vulnerable urban environment with limited access to resources. Transitional communities such as OVE are often located on parking lots or long-unused acreage with minimal services and little or no vegetation. This basically describes the OVE property. The land is hard-packed; all gardening must be done above-ground; and there are only a few trees and very little shade.

The UO students visited OVE and talked with residents, staff, and volunteers several times during their idea-generation stage to ask for input about what was needed and what systems might work well at the Village. This type of co-design collaboration is key to their design process.

Both classes presented their projects at the Village in mid-March. It was a fun, festive time with students and residents mingling around and talking with great interest about the ideas.

>> View all of the student project posters here

Here’s a sample of some of the project ideas. All are portable, low-cost, and simple to build and maintain.

  • Movable trellis planter boxes on which shade cloths can be anchored

  • Pallet gardens that also provide shade

  • Fruit growing for consumption on site or sale

  • Grow clumping bamboo for sale (did you know that bamboo sells for at least $65 in nurseries?)

  • Greywater system for recycling water for irrigation.

With some funding already received, several students will continue work with OVE over the next few months to implement prototypes of a wastewater filtration-irrigation system, shade structures, and edible planting. The project also recently received the University of Oregon Town and Gown Award, which acknowledges projects that promote, educate, or enhance a more sustainable community.

We are excited about the energy and innovation these projects bring to OVE and the collaborative processes involved. In addition to making OVE’s physical environment more livable, many of these concepts include skills-building for residents (gardening, building planting structures) as well as revenue generation for the Village as the projects mature (selling fruit trees, bamboo).

These are real projects for a real urban environment. If you would like to support the implementation of this project, please select the "Landscapes for Humanity" designation in our online donation portal.

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