Part two of the the Spring studio, Architectural Design, is a six-week design/build project.
During the design phase I was chosen as one of the Project Ambassadors for the Floating Pavilion. I remained on this team throughout the entirety of the project. The final design and construction was lead by Nicole Marple, Aaron Tobey, Mike Todd, and myself. Construction of the dock began May 19, and by May 25 all four components had been built and set afloat.
In 1790, Slater Mill became the first water powered cotton spinning mill in North America. Two centuries later, the river that powered Slater Mill and helped fuel the start of the American Industrial Revolution was proclaimed by the Environmental Protection Agency as the most polluted river in the United States.
Beginning in mid-April, the Architectural Design studio, made up of first year undergraduate and graduate students were charged with designing and building additions to the Blossom site located at the Chinese Christian Church of Rhode Island, which already was occupied by two garden pavilions created by last year’s studio. Over the course of six weeks, 72 students in the Architectural Design (one of three core studios) studio design and built additions a new grape arbor pavilion, extensive landscaping, multiple rain gardens, river access, and a floating pavilion. The studio was lead by Professor Silvia Acosta, and critics Adrienne Benz, Andrew Tower, Thomas Gardner, Elizabeth Ghiseline, and Jason Wood.
In mid-April all students collaborated to design the additions to the site. The additions to the site were propelled by the desire to provide a constructed dialogue between the existing two pavilions as well as to begin to address the conversation between human action and river ecology. The studio collaborated extensively with the Mayor’s Office of the City of Pawtucket, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, the Permitting Office, and local organizations that have been working to clean up the Blackstone River in recent years. For many students, this is the first time that they have constructed their designs at scale. This includes producing construction documents, full-scale construction details, and having to work within material realities, and a budget. As the professors frequently reminded students: drawing a line in AutoCad is very different from cutting a line on the chop saw.
One of the major concerns on the site was to address the runoff from the parking lot as well as all the other storm water that drains into the Blackstone River from other parts of the site, as well as the city of Pawtucket. In order to accommodate the torrential rain storms and the run off they produce, an engineered bio retention system was implemented as well as a 100 foot long perforated pipe to distribute water across the site and not directly into the river.
After entering the site, passing the community garden and upper pavilion, visitors are greeted by a grape arbor, which acts as a gateway to the site, but also a place of rest and for intimate conversation. Moving downhill, the hillside has been extensively landscaped with numerous gabion-style benches and regionally specific vegetation. The benches not only help to retain earth, but have been strategically placed in a staggered formation down the hill to address specific views of the site and create different zones of group conversion, intimate exchanges, and personal reflection. On approach to the lower pavilion, a sunken fire pit brings visitors slightly below ground before entering the pavilion. The fire pit also exaggerates the entrance to the pavilion, which frames a direct path to the river access and floating pavilion.
On the river side of the lower pavilion a rain garden has been planted to address the runoff from the roof. There is also an extensive gabion wall system that wraps the perimeter of the pavilion to address both the runoff form the roof and deck. Stepping down, visitors are brought to the river access. This transitional space was created by first removing nearly 300 cubic yards of earth to accommodate for an extensive terrace. The terrace, which was then backfilled with the removed earth, will help maintain the riverbank preventing it from washing away completely during the next decade.
The terrace bulkhead allows the 3,200-pound floating pavilion to connect via specially designed galvanized steel hardware. Along the 96-miles of shore line nothing exists like the new floating pavilion; it is a precedent in the state of Rhode Island and will serve as a guide for further permitting, which will allow similar structures to being to appear along the banks of the Blackstone River. The floating pavilion consists of a massive gangway, and three floating platforms that are supported by floatation billets. Two floating benches have been integrated into the design of the pavilion, which completes the journey for visitors to the site.
The students and faculty responsible for the design and construction of the Blossom site would like to thank the support from the Department of Architecture, RISD, the Chinese Christian Church of Rhode Island, the City of Pawtucket, and the countless community and corporate sponsors.
Blossom Community Garden is located at 333 Roosevelt Avenue, Pawtucket, RI – just six miles from campus!