DAY 2

8 Jul

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1- Students dig test pits to measure infiltration rates.

2- Roger and Kyle measure the depth of the test pits.

3- Layout and grading crew stake out and set datum points for hardscape.

4- Andy meets with a few students, on the right, while others prepare construction sign posts.

5- Irene and Mary rework the planting plan, while Jacqui sketches out specs for the sign.

6- Barry clears soil from the tree roots in order to root prune the large oaks.

7- Students work to clear soil from the drain.

Student Observations

Construction day two, and as we filed onto the worksite we were met with a nice surprise.  The layout and grading team met the day before and had spent a considerable amount of time staking and marking the components of the landscape.  There our plan was spread out before us, drawn in electric-green spray paint.  With a little imagination, we could now walk through the design to get a feel for what the experience might be like.  Design development doesn’t end in the studio.  It can’t.  The experience of the landscape is too layered, too complex to fully imagine in two dimensions.

Sure, one can develop a sophisticated understanding of geometry and scale in the studio, but a certain degree of design must happen on site so that the landscape authentically expresses the place.  Designing in situ affords the greater exploitation of nuance.  The way heat bounces off of buildings, the way that breezes ebb and flow, the light, the noise, all of the little details that affect the experience of the design which are so difficult to imagine from a chair in an air-conditioned studio.  These are the details that must be mastered in order to fully craft the desired experience.

For today, the experience of our design would have to stay a daydream.  With heavy equipment not coming to break ground until Monday, further landscape development was limited to housekeeping.  The layout and grading crew staked out one of two patios, then calculated the depths we would need to dig at each corner of the feature.  Another crew laid waste to a hanging swing, and repurposed the wood into a sign used to inform passers by about the project.  A few other small tasks were tackled, but the real star of the day was the air spade, a filthy, noisy, and immensely enjoyable tool.

With the pull of a trigger, the air spade caused soil to explode from the ground while simultaneously leaving delicate roots unharmed.  Within seconds, impossibly compacted clay was fractured and thrown 20’ into the air.  At first the air spade was used to trace a line around the tree protection zone so that invading tree roots could be later pruned.  The spade was then used to dig out the footprint of the patio.  In minutes we had done what a dozen people might do in an hour.  With that preliminary digging done, the sign erected, and some logistics sorted, the week was finished.  Satisfied with our work, we shut down the site and fled for the air-conditioning.  The weekend was upon us, and we would need it to rest, recoup, and prepare for the week ahead.

– Preston Montague

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