At Wiemann Lamphere Architects, we work to encourage community involvement and interaction in a variety of ways. Often this is done through charrette meetings, public fundraising efforts and development of common community spaces; however, with one of our most recent projects, we aided in the establishment of a rather unique community relationship, between a senior independent living facility and a technical college. The Gifford Retirement Community in Randolph VT, is located within walking distance of the Vermont Technical College (VTC). During the visioning and programming phases WLA helped to determine that the establishment of a relationship between the two entities was one of the goals for the site and project. With encouragement from our firm and the designs we put forth, this goal has already begun to become a reality.

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The Vermont Technical College’s Permaculture class offered a great opportunity for connection between the two organizations. This arose through the research and planning of permaculture gardens within various locations around the Gifford site. Permaculture is “a set of techniques and principals for designing a sustainable homestead, which is modeled after nature but includes humans. In permaculture the garden is an ecosystem including the interactions of biotic and abiotic factors working together to produce products” (Kim Cayer). Students were charged with developing plans for sustainable, synergistically functioning plant ecosystems that would encourage involvement and activity within the Gifford community and Technical College alike. These plans included lists of plants that would occupy each section within the chosen locations, explained their benefits to the entire ecosystem, provided designs for plant beds, descriptions of how the system would interact and made suggestions for how the community would be involved in ensuring the longevity and sustainability of the biomes. The plants included in these designs serve a multitude of function from increased biodiversity and the encouragement of pollinators, to development of edible byproducts and usable materials.

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The VTC class utilized site drawings that WLA had prepared for the Gifford project during design development, ensuring that they would be actionable guidelines for how to create these ecosystems after project completion. These plans are likely become part of the overall landscape design of the Gifford site and will add an entirely new sustainable dimension to an already efficient site. We are excited to see the level of multi-generational interaction that has already been established between the two campuses. We hope that the relationship that WLA has aided in fostering will continue for years to come, and that they will each find new ways of supporting one another through shared spaces programs and events.

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