Keiji Uesugi issued a challenge to the students in his landscape design class: Visit the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego’s Balboa Park and craft concepts for the garden’s ongoing expansion.
Their task in the fall quarter was to come up with ideas for a children’s garden that would fit into the 10-acre expansion.
In small groups, students brainstormed possibilities while integrating Japanese garden design and the concept of friendship. This also meant thinking about the broader context of the project, such as the areas surrounding Balboa Park, local demographics and weather patterns.
Nicole Nguyen, a third-year landscape architecture student, and her team designed a memorial space, planned horticulture classes, and created mental and physical exercise programs for garden visitors. She enjoyed the real-world opportunity to plan and design aspects of a large project.
“This was, by far, one of my favorite experiences that was beneficial for my studies, since this was really the first time since starting the program that we got to have a partnership with a real-life site and individuals that are a part of the future for the project site,” Nguyen says. “Most importantly, the feedback we received allowed for my group, and even the rest of the groups in the studio, to really push our designs forward.”
Uesugi and his father, Professor Emeritus Takeo Uesugi, have been closely involved with the garden’s expansion project. The younger Uesugi, who has been taking his students on fieldtrips to the garden since 2011, thought it would be the perfect opportunity to bring his aspiring landscape architects on board.
“Visiting in-progress construction sites is an essential part of the students’ understanding of landscape systems and construction materials. So as the Japanese Friendship Garden construction commenced, it was the perfect time to develop an ongoing site-visit program to the garden,” he says.
For the second year, he also had his winter 2015 landscape construction class build and design benches. The class selected four benches for donation to the Japanese Friendship Garden. In March, the students presented the benches to Japanese Friendship Garden President Dennis Otsuji, the garden’s board members and staff. The donated benches will have plaques that explain the connection between the Japanese Friendship Garden and Cal Poly Pomona.
Corey Cameron, a third-year landscape architecture student, worked with three other students to design one of the winning bench concepts. Cameron, who started visiting as the garden as a first-year student, has enjoyed seeing the project’s progression.
“Both the bench design and children’s garden design was a great experience,” Cameron says. “Group work, in general, is very important to understand as a designer, and something we as landscape architects must deal with professionally. By gaining real feedback on designs that could be implemented for real clients, as well as researching Japanese gardens, we benefitted as a class and developed better as architects.”