The Lake Como project is a perfect example of what WHSAD is all about: students putting their creative quirks to use. For the past year, WHSAD students have been working with the residents in the New Jersey town, Lake Como, to redesign the lakefront. The design for the lake done by our students has been picked up by the mayor of Lake Como, Kevin Higgins, and is actually going to be constructed. Right now, we’re working on finalizing the plans.
Student Narrative – By Mahalia Sainteloi
Working on this community project is really exciting because we get to put all of our creative minds together and create something for the Lake Como community. We all have different attributes that serve a purpose to the design. It’s not just the people personally working on the project, who are a part of the architecture club, it’s many students who are interested in helping out the community. Having a team like this allows students to interact with each other and work together to create one final outcome that’ll be beneficial to everyone. Having a good number of people provides more support and participation in implementation plans, helps encourage decision-making and problem solving skills, and allows each person to take on a leadership role. For me, working on this project opens up new possibilities. It allows me to work alongside my peers so that we can brainstorm collectively and develop an efficient working environment. It also provides great learning possibilities because we are put on this project without a lot of background information but as we continue working on the project and think about new ways to benefit the community, it becomes a familiarity.
Interview With Mr.Rodriguez
We also sat down with Mr. Rodriguez, one of the main orchestrators of the project, for an interview.
Q: How did this all get started?
A:The whole project started about a year ago. It began as a design competition to find a new vision for Lake Como while attacking a bunch of environmental projects at the same time. Being that we are an architecture school, Heather Butts of H.E.A.L.T.H. for Youths approached us to join the competition. She’s been one of our partners for some time now and works with John Gibbs in community service and gardening. Heather introduced us to John, with whom we are working and who already has a vision for Lake Como. We then came on board and got the kids involved. John’s vision for the lake is long term and environmentally themed. We want to create a hometown attraction for visitors while revitalizing the lakefront, improving the environment, increasing business, etc.
Although the main project is the lakefront, there’s also other mini projects within it. For example, The Fun and Wildlife Park Landscape Design project for students to explore footpath and activity areas, native plant species, and living shorelines. There’s also Candide’s Garden, and the Pathway to the Lake for other projects associated with Lake Como.
Q: Can you give us a rundown of the whole project. Who’s it for, what role does our school play in it? What are the students doing?
A:The Lake Como project is for the New Jersey borough, Lake Como, and its inhabitants. Our role is to research and design. Students have the opportunity to learn about designing a lake for a community, the importance of environment pollinator habitats, and living shorelines as ecosystem homes (they improve the quality of a lake and such). Currently, students are preparing a series of visual representations of what the lakefront can look like and become. They are assisting in providing the town with a set of drawings that illustrates the vision of Lake Como. Through this, they are also learning how to collaborate and exchange ideas with others, while collaborating with advisors and potential stakeholders. Other skills include site analysis. Students are documenting different conditions and reimagining the environment. They problem solved while engaging in the entire design thinking process to present a preliminary design. Now, they’re working towards presenting a final product. All of these skills are valuable skills needed in the 21st century job market/work place.
Q: In your professional opinion, what are some of the skills students will learn from this experience?
A: Wow there’s many. Environmental stewardship and empathizing with a community, both skills needed in the 21s century job market, as I said before. Additionally, students are expressing creative ideas visually, verbally, and through writing. They are generating landscape architecture drawings on AutoCAD. They will also gain computer skills utilizing softwares like Photoshop, AutoCAD, and Rhino.
Q: How’s the project going what are you currently working on?
A: The project is going very well. The winning team out of 5 other teams’ designs has been picked up by the mayor and residents of the New Jersey town. Now, our current team, led by Deselle Thompson and Mahalia Sainteloi, is working to pick up on the feedback from the community to revise the design. Deselle and Mahalia aren’t working alone as they have a work team focused in computer drafting and drawing. The girls are going to be working on the final design and final presentation to the city.