New life for local park

New life for local park
Architect Dorina Bakiri explains her vision for the new community garden to a small group of interested residents at a kickoff meeting.

Community garden the right opportunity for young architects

The mountainous, stony city of Gjirokastër, in southern Albania, has an indirect influence on the winning design for the Riverside Avondale Community Garden. But you won’t see a proliferation of stone; instead, the warmth of wood is the focus for the design.

Architect Dorina Bakiri, recently a former Avondale resident and member of the Emerging Design Professionals, grew up in Gjirokastër. The winner of the garden design competition said the town had beautiful architecture and she used to draw those buildings, dreaming one day of becoming an architect.

Bakiri followed her sister to Florida about 12 years ago, to study architecture at the University of Florida. Now she is a U.S. citizen and works for Reynolds, Smith and Hills.

At a recent community kickoff meeting at the proposed site for the garden – the Willowbranch Rose Garden Park – Bakiri explained her vision for the design took elements from the homes and gardens in Riverside and Avondale.

“I was trying to take into consideration the historic buildings in Avondale and took elements that already existed in the neighborhood, the elaborate private gardens, the pavers, the historical rose garden, a delicate wood fence that creates a sculpture piece around the site but still blocks the mess inside,” she said. “The design was done in a way to mirror the garden to expand it in the future.”

The softly curving wood fence will include a bench on both sides of the wall, so both gardeners and passers-by can sit and relax. A paved area just inside the garden’s entrance can be covered with a fabric canopy to shade small meetings and educational gatherings. Bakiri also envisions night lighting under the benches.

“This is a prominent corner in Avondale so having steel fencing we couldn’t get a certificate of appropriateness for that, but Dorina has taken it to the next level, said Susan Fraser, project organizer. “It’s a piece of art.”

Fraser explained that the fence will protect the garden from four-legged intruders and also provide a sense of security for the gardeners.

The community garden design project was a chance for the Emerging Design Professionals to display their talents. Brandon Pourch, president of the group, said “It has to be the right opportunity, and this was a perfect way for us to engage the community, show off our design skills and help the people of Riverside/Avondale.”

According to Carmen Godwin, executive director for Riverside Avondale Preservation, RAP will serve as the managing entity in the public-private partnership. “As part of the agreement, we have to provide insurance, have the electric and water bills put in our name, and maintain the property. We are also going to manage the approval process, obtain the certificate of appropriateness as this is in a historic district, get building permits, and follow ADA requirements,” said Godwin.

Fraser explained that “We’ll be taking this property away from open public use to specific public use, so the site has to be prepared; irrigation, electric and parking have to be put together.”

The garden will function as a co-op, with management by the members. Every gardener will sign an agreement, and there will be volunteer requirements. Since Godwin anticipates a demand greater than the 35 plots available at $50 per season (half a year), a lottery will be used to assign the 4×20-foot plots.

Although Bakiri is not currently gardening, she said she is on a waiting list for a community garden at the beach, to which she recently moved. Both gardening and architecture have something in common for the young Albanian. “It’s a profession that all your life you’ll keep learning and every day you’ll realize you know so little,” she stated.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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