The Twelfth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2010
Berkeley Prize 2010

Jessica Clark Proposal

Growing in the Gaps: Preserving and expanding the community garden network as a form of alternative urban infill in Berkeley, California

For my essay, I discussed the spatial, social, and ecological effects of gardens and agriculture in urban settings. In Berkeley, California there is tremendous support for community and school garden programs. This enthusiasm stems from the region’s love of nature, displayed historically in the Bay Area Arts and Craft architectural and artistic movement, as well as the numerous environmental organizations in the city today. Although the city of Berkeley values its natural surroundings, development has followed a pattern of sprawl with vast ecosystem alteration and destruction. In my paper I proposed the expansion of urban agriculture as a form of urban infill. Development of community gardens along transportation corridors and within suburban neighborhoods would not only help restore ecosystem processes, but address the social issues of food security and community development.

Many issues addressed by urban agriculture converge with current architectural sustainability concerns in the field of permaculture. The Permaculture Institute, a group at the forefront of education and research on permaculture, defines permaculture as, “an ecological design system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor. It teaches us how to build natural homes, grow our own food, restore diminished landscapes and ecosystems, catch rainwater, build communities and much more.” ( Permaculture has concepts that can diminish our impact on the land and its natural processes in all forms of the built environment, in all types of climate, whether it be a rural indigenous tribe in South America or the metropolis of the Bay Area. Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren developed the field of study in the 1970s. The term “permaculture” is a reference to “permanent agriculture” and “permanent culture” ( It has been applied to urban and rural systems of environmental design throughout the world, and is based on the study of both natural ecosystem relationships and traditional wisdom. While Mollison and Holmgren developed permaculture as a form of environmental design mimicking nature, it has evolved into a way of life. Its concepts are shared worldwide through the development of organizations, institutes, and through the internet.

The Permaculture Institute was founded in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1997 in association with the Permaculture Institute in Australia. Since its inception, the Permaculture Institute has educated a diverse body of people through its demonstration garden and education courses. To complement my research on the spatial, ecological, and social implications of urban agriculture, I would like to participate in the Permaculture Institute’s Design and Sustainable Communities course. The course is a two-week intensive program leading to a certification in Permaculture Design. The course is held at the Lama Foundation in Taos, New Mexico. The Lama Foundation is one of the oldest intentional communities in the country and focuses on permaculture education, natural building techniques, and spiritual practices. After a destructive fire in 1996, the foundation completely redesigned and rebuilt its buildings and infrastucture, using the opportunity to study and utilize permaculture and natural building techniques. The site today has straw-bale constructed buildings and is off the electric power grid. The permaculture design course takes place from June 5-18. It consists of various forms of teaching, including lectures, discussions, hands-on experience, field trips, and a design project. The curriculum closely follows that originally developed by Mollison and Holmgren, and includes:

• Principles of Natural Systems • Sustainable Design Methodologies • Patterns in Nature, Culture and Society • Reading the Land & Understanding Natural Processes • Large Scale Land Restoration Techniques • Water Harvesting Techniques • Design Principles of Sustainable Human Settlements • Grey Water Recycling • Natural Building Strategies • Cultivated & Productive Ecologies • Food Forests, Plant Guilds, Gardens for Self-Sufficiency • Energy Conservation Technologies • Appropriate Technologies and Renewable Energies • Urban Environment Permaculture • Wildlife Management and Biological Pest Control • Land Arts and Community Activism • Invisible Structures: EcoVillages & Credit Unions • Community Supported Agriculture • Strategies for an Alternative Nation

Classes take place throughout the day, including readings and homework. The course culminates in a group design project. The Lama Foundation is in a rural setting, surrounded by the Carson National Forest. Meals are prepared by the Lama Foundation and provided in the course fees. Participants camp in either their own tents or at dormitories at the Lama Foundation.

I would like to take the concepts I learn from the Parmaculture Institute and apply them to the issues I have focused on for my paper. Not only does urban garden infill have social and spatial implications, but with the application of permaculture theories it can reverse the affects of the man-made environment on local ecology. The concepts of permaculture can inform a new pattern of growth that works with and respects natural processes. I am also very interested in building technologies that engage the site. After graduating in Architecture, I would like to continue my studies in Building Science. The permaculture course addresses many new and traditional knowledge-based building technologies. I am very interested in learning about building systems that connect building structures to site, such as greywater reuse and alternative energy sources. I am also very interested in natural, locally sourced materials that can rival or outcompete traditional materials. I am interested to learn about straw-bale construction, especially with the experienced builders at the Lama Foundation.

I believe the concepts of permaculture can have a profound effect on urban environments. Cities have been planned in ways that work against natural processes, with consequences planners and architects are struggling to cope with today. For example, water drainage has been engineered to transport rainfall out of cities as quickly as possible, increasing peak flow, which leads to pollution of the Bay as well as stream degradation. If cities were designed to mimic local natural ecology, these effects could be mitigated and our impact on the environment could begin to become less harmful, and even perhaps beneficial. Habits and development patterns learned from nature can be applied at varying scales as well, from small gardens to the design of buildings and cities. Learning the concepts of permaculture would not only enhance my research on urban gardening, but also my career in architecture. As architects, we build structures that will affect the built environment for generations to come. This gives us the unique opportunity to influence human habits and settlement patterns much more than any other occupation. It is our responsibility to design in a way that can support and sustain communities, resources, and the environment long past our own time. I believe studying the concepts of permaculture will give me the tools and knowledge to design healthy, environmentally invisible structures. Buildings and people will no longer be measured by their ecological/carbon footprint, but by their contribution to their site's health and resilience.

Resources: • o course page: o • • •

Itinerary: • June 4: Leave Oakland, arrive in Albuquerque. o Shuttle from Albuquerque to Taos o Picked up at Taos, drive to Lama Foundation • June 5-18: Permaculture Course, camp in the Lama Foundation • June 19: Leave Lama Foundation, drive to Taos o Shuttle from Taos to Albuquerque o Flight from Albuquerque to Oakland

Budget: • Transportation: o Flights, Southwest Airlines (as of 2/6/2010): • Oakland to Albuquerque--$110 • Albuquerque to Oakland--$130 o Shuttle to/from airport to Taos—(2x$50)=$100 • Course Fee--$1450 • Miscellaneous o Course Texts • Intro to Permaculture, Bill Mollison--$45 • Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-scale Permaculture, Toby Hemenway--$20 • Rainwater Harvesting in Drylands and Beyond Vol. 1 & 2, Brad Lancaster--$65 o Tent, REI Camp Dome 2 Tent--$100 o Miscellaneous camping expenses (lantern, sleeping bag/pad, etc)--$500 • TOTAL: $2520

Additional Help and Information

Are you in need of assistance? Please email
Ms. Jessica Clark, University of California, Berkeley, USA; for travel to the Permaculture Institute’s Design and Sustainable Communities Program, New Mexico, USA.
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