UH engages in environment issues
Students from the School of Arts’ Graphic Communications program and the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture teamed up this semester to create environmentally friendly structures for Japhet Creek Park, Houston’s first Green Fingers Project.
The unveiling of their creations was held Saturday at Japhet Creek Park in the presence of friends and family as well as members of the Japhet Creek community.
“The project, called Dis(solve), is a message-laden collaboration between 21 UH senior students in the School of Arts Graphic Communications program and 12 fourth year students in the College of Architecture,” associate professor Cheryl Beckett said.
Beckett said the students worked within four interdisciplinary teams over a period of nine and a half weeks.
“Dis(solve) consists of nine different structures which are meant to serve as environmental metaphors of how the things we make can work in harmony with nature and ideally return to nature,” Beckett said.
Some of the structures included the Waste Oasis, Filtration Station, Mod Scapes and the Trash Extraction Device.
Graphics communication senior Rachel Outlaw worked on the team that created the Filtration Station, which in addition to incorporating a shipping container for storage, also has a green roof that will keep the container cooler and act as a filtration system to provide water for washing hands and tools.
“We basically did a lot of brainstorming about this area and what Japhet Creek meant to us and how we wanted to incorporate the industrial nature of it with nature,” Outlaw said. “That led us to the shipping container idea, which has a green roof. The idea is that when it rains, water filters down eventually and comes into a barrel so that the people who work here can have a place to store their tools and also a place for the community members to wash their hands.”
Chris Pine, a fourth-year architecture student, said his team thought that Mod Scapes would represent Japhet Creek in the best way.
“We came up with a dissolvable garden which creates seating by combining bio-degradable boxes with compacted soil and native plants,” Pine said. “The boxes at one point will eventually start to peel away.”
Before this project, most of the students had never heard of Japhet Creek.
“I never knew this was here, but it’s great,” Outlaw said. “I love that Houston is interested in building up the community in this way. And celebrating the fact that yes there was industry, waste and pollution here but now we can turn this into a completely different thing.”
Beckett said the Dis(solve) project was an opportunity to participate in a place and make the efforts needed to positively transform an abused environment through human intervention.
Beckett said that these sorts of projects get the students out of the classroom and allow them to put theories of sustainability into practice toward the betterment of their community.
In addition to giving back to the community, the students from the different fields were able to learn a lot from each other.
“As graphic designers we don’t know much about construction, so we had to lean on the architects for information and vice versa. It was really good partnership, and I think we both learned a lot about our different disciplines,” Outlaw said.
Ramon Arciniega, an architecture student, agreed with Outlaw.
“This was by far, one of the greatest experiences for me because of how smoothly everything just came together,” Arciniega said.
The project gained support of the Japhet Creek community and the members were pleased with the results.
“I’m just really impressed with what they did,” community leader Jim Ohmart said. “I’m curious to see the dissolve part of it, how it looks in six months. And I’m real happy with the attention that it’s bringing to our community. This is going to help in raising community awareness.”
Another community leader said he appreciates the students using the large amount of space available at the creek.
“What the students have been able to do out here is to define the space so rather than being an empty lot with a beautiful creek running through it that you can barely see from the road; what they have helped to do is to identify the space,” Brian Herod said. “People passing by will know that this is a park and not a place to dump things at.”
The Dis(solve) project was funded by the Greater East End Management District. The City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership and the Japhet Creek Community Association provided additional support.