It’s been a busy summer at the Burton Street Peace Garden in West Asheville so far. The garden, first developed in 2002 as a response to the Iraq War, has been getting a new addition courtesy of the Asheville Design Center and a group of students from around the region. A new outdoor classroom space is being built on the Peace Garden’s lot as part of a 10-week design-build studio summer course organized by the design center, and taken by students from around the region majoring in relevant fields such as architecture, landscape architecture, and construction management.
“It’s basically a way to get students out to translate their [design] ideas into a built project,” reports class instructor Luke Perry. Students spent the first half of the course collaborating with each other on the design of the structure – making drawings, computer models, and a physical model – as well as site analysis, and obtaining a building permit for the location selected.
After that, it was time to turn the students’ ideas into something a bit more physical; it was time to build. Construction began the first weekend in July, and since then things have come along quickly.
Nearly completed now, the open-air structure has been built primarily with found, scavenged, and donated materials, with new materials only being used when necessary for structural reasons. Structural engineer Ed Medlock of Medlock & Associates Engineering, PA has been assisting the students in making sure the building in making sure the building is structurally sound.
The decision to use found and scavenged materials was in keeping with the philosophy behind the Burton Street Peace Garden. Safi Mahaba, who co-owns the property with her husband DeWayne Barton, says that whenever possible, the garden always uses found material to repurpose. “We’ve kind of nurtured a larger vision for this space the whole time. It started with the garden,” she reveals.
Once finished, the space will serve as a classroom and gathering space for groups of up to 15 people, with the building acting as a teaching example on how people use resources, and how those resources can be repurposed. “The way that DeWayne as an artist with kids is to first have them identify the issues that are important to them in the community, and then have them create something related to that topic,” says Mahaba. She and Barton would also like to see the space become a community gathering spot for a variety of purposes. “We’d love to see a drumming group get started for some of the local youth…maybe some dancing, lots of different things,” she adds.
The building, dubbed “Mystic Dreams” after a scavenged storefront sign bound for the landfill, is expected to be completed in time for an opening and dedication to be held on August 6 at 6 p.m. The event will feature food, drinks, and a live D.J. Students from the design-build studio class will be on hand to discuss their work on the project.