A while back, I wrote a little post about my solo design class project (which post was mostly just me being frustrated by having to draw things, so feel free to not click here to read it), and I promised to post about the project when it was finished. Well, it is! And so I am.
The point of the assignment was to go through the design process up to the conceptual design phase, which essentially means starting with a property, talking to whoever’s in charge of the property about their needs and desires, analyzing it as it currently exists, and proposing the basic elements of a new design.
For the project, I partnered with a friend of mine here in Fort Collins who lives in a suburban home and wants to grow most of her own food, and show her neighbors that it’s okay to as well. After speaking with her a bit more about what she wanted, and why, the first step in analyzing the site was to do create a base map of the property – a scale drawing of the property and the permanent elements of it. My map looks like this (and apologies for the quality/orientation of these images; it’s the best I can do right now):
For some frame of reference, here’s a link to the Google Earth image of this property. On my photo, north is to the right. The house is in the center, the left is a residential street corner, and the puffy things are existing trees. The idea of the base map is to have, well, a base from which to analyze different elements of the property. You’ll see the base map on every other step of the process.
The first analysis I did is called a Zone Analysis. It explores the usage of the property in terms of zones of frequency. I did one for the winter and one for the summer (cause it’s cold here and outdoor usage changes drastically). Here’s the winter one….
… and here’s the summer one:
The shadings and numbers correspond to frequency of use of the property. Zone 1 is used daily, Zone 2 several times a week, Zone 3 several times a month, and Zone 4 less than monthly. Permaculture design is founded upon observing and interacting with the subject of the design extensively before changes are even proposed, and the zone map helps one see how the residents, visitors, or other human occupants of the site currently interact with it.
The non-human influences on a property are key considerations as well. For this analysis, I used a Sector map. Sectors refer to the various spheres of influence – natural and human-made – external to the property. Here’s my sector map for this project:
It’s kind of hard to see (I made the mistake of using light colored pencils), but some sectors I identified were where the sun shines (and doesn’t) at various times of the day and year, where water flows on the property when it rains, how the neighbors interact with the property, what wildlife is to be found, and where the prevailing winds come from and how they flow. Identifying these is important because it will inform where one places features of a design (a basic example: don’t put your garden beds in the shade). And creating this map involves spending a lot of time at a place, being still, and paying attention. The landscape tells us a lot if we know how to listen. It also involves spending time with the people using the space too; a lot of the information I collected was from my friend talking about what her life is like at home, and what she’d like her life to be like at home.
Once enough information is collected (if there’s ever enough), developing a Problem/Solution Statement was the next step. This is kind of like a mission statement for the project, containing a bit about what the client wants and needs, and how the design will meet those. My statement for this project is:
The client wishes to provide food and income for her household while engaging and educating her neighborhood. My design proposes a diverse agricultural system based around the Neighborhood Supported Agriculture model, integrating aesthetically pleasing design and neighborhood access points with closed-loop food production.
That statement, along with observation and interaction, informs the conceptual design, which is the last step in the assignment. The conceptual design places elements on the property, and shows how they interact with the zones, sectors, existing elements, and each other. Here’s my conceptual design for the property, which I call the Miramont Farm:
Again, the image quality is not great, but the major elements of the design are annual garden beds, pollinator habitat, and a little neighborhood farmstand at the bottom of the property (in the sunny part), perennial food trees and plants where there are now ornamental landscapings (on the right side), runoff channels and roof spouts to direct rainwater for irrigation, an animal pasture in the backyard (top left) to house chickens and goats, and composting areas for recycling nutrients on the property.
While this was the final phase in the assignment, it’s not the final phase in the design process. If my friend decides to go forward with installing this, a detailed design plan will follow, in which I plan out, for example, what kinds of fruit trees to put where, how wide to make the walkways and runoff channels, how long to make the garden beds, and so forth.
That all remains to be seen; this is what I have so far. And putting aside my limited artistic and digital-imaging skills, I’m quite happy with the results. I’d welcome feedback from my readers in the comment section – and also, if you’re interested in this process on your own property, leave a comment as well!