Community garden subject of documentary for competition

Community garden subject of documentary for competition
James Siler films Brandon Pourch and Mike and Debi Pyne in the Riverside Avondale Community Garden for a national competition among the American Institute of Architects.
James Siler, Kumar Pictures owner/creative director, discusses shots with community garden coordinator Joan Sullivan.

James Siler, Kumar Pictures owner/creative director, discusses shots with community garden coordinator Joan Sullivan.

Four and a half years after the Emerging Design Professionals group – a Young Architects Forum under the American Institute of Architects – approached Riverside Avondale Preservation asking whether there was a project in which the group could be involved, and RAP offered up a community garden, the AIA Jacksonville Chapter is submitting the finished product into a national competition.

AIA Jacksonville, led by Jennifer Suharmadji, hired Kumar Pictures to film a short documentary on the design and construction of the Riverside Avondale Community Garden. Garden plot holders were filmed Aug. 18 as they tidied up beds and spoke about their involvement in the construction of the garden.

The competition, called “The Blueprint for Better,” consists of a three- to five-minute documentary highlighting how architects work with the community and civic leaders to improve the neighborhoods, said Suharmadji, chapter president. “This amazing garden came to fruition also from a competition,” she noted. The prize is minimal, Suharmadji said, but recognition of the chapter is priceless.

In June 2014, Brandon Pourch, president of Emerging Design Professionals, and three other landscape designers – Julia Epstein, Dorina Bakiri and Kimberly Patrie – had submitted designs for the garden to RAP. A panel of judges – Melody Bishop, Doug Lane, Dr. Wayne Wood and Angela Schifanella – chose Bakiri’s design, “Simple Curve,” for the garden at the corner of Park Street and Azalea Terrace. The softly curving wood fence includes a bench on both sides of the wall, so both gardeners and passers-by can sit and relax.

After obtaining funds, a stalwart group of gardeners and other volunteers, with help from landscape architect Susan Fraser, architect Doug Lane and home renovators Mike and Debi Pyne, put in eight to 10 months’ worth of sweat equity constructing the fence and the garden beds before the garden was officially opened in April 2016.

Rose bushes were planted outside the fence in November 2016 to acknowledge the property’s former life as the Willowbranch Park Rose Garden, established by the Jacksonville Rose Society in 1955.

The garden functions as a co-op, with management by the members, and currently coordinated by Joan Sullivan. Every gardener signs an agreement and commits to six volunteer hours per quarter. Sullivan said there is currently a waiting list of 20 gardeners for the 31-plot garden, composed of 4-foot by 20-foot raised, irrigated beds, and one wheelchair accessible bed sponsored by the Friends of Willowbranch Library.

Although ongoing theft occurs – including one entire plot getting wiped out – the garden remains open to the public.


By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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