UF College of Design, Construction & Planning

Landscape Architecture Students Work to Improve Area Behind College - Published on August 20, 2019

This spring, landscape architecture students worked hard to design and build a tiny environmental area, or TEA garden, and a rake shack outside the Architecture Building. The TEA garden demonstrates how a floating wetland can be an effective environmental management tool while the rake shack provides a site stewardship activity where one can rake the area as a way to reduce stress.

These students were enrolled in the Department of Landscape Architecture’s Advanced Construction and Design course and went on many visits on their journey to build the TEA garden.

They visited Sholom Park in Ocala to study floating wetlands installed as a water quality management strategy. The wetlands were developed, manufactured, installed and maintained by BEEmats, a Florida-based floating wetland company.

“BEEmats leads the field,” Landscape Architecture associate professor Kevin Thompson said. “Where other floating wetlands achieve similar benefits in nutrient uptake, BEEmats is the only company that harvests and replants the wetlands. This is a critical part of the process because without removing the plant material as it dies, the nutrients are returned to the aquatic environment and the benefit is lost.”

BEEmats not only provided learning opportunities for the students, but also made a generous donation of a floating wetland that now resides in the pond outside of the Architecture Building.

Students also visited Concrete Precast Products in Gainesville. It’s a construction components company where they followed the precast concrete manufacturing process from the blending of aggregates and mixing of components to the building of formwork to the casting and demolding process.

“These design professionals will be designing and specifying this material nearly every day of their working life so having a background knowledge of what is involved in the construction and fabrication process is essential,” Thompson stated.

This knowledge helped the students cast the foundation beams for the rake shack, which came about through discussions with students and alums to discuss and explore ideas for the design of a tiny structure intended to hold a single leaf rake.

One of those alums, Chris Hite, was so impressed by the final plan for the structure, she secured funding from her firm, Dix.Hite + Partners, to pay for its construction. And they wound up building a twin rake shack at their business near Orlando.

“Landscape architecture requires skills in design, a detailed understanding of construction, excellence in project management and the gift of being a good collaborator,” Hite explained. “This ambitious little building embodies all those characteristics and presents a terrific opportunity for students to lead a design and construction project.”