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  • Helen Davidoski

Santa Barbara Eco-Cultura Educational Campus: From Brownfield to Healthfield

First iteration design proposal for AFC+A's Eco-Cultura Campus

Partners: Before getting into the details of this project, it’s important to introduce the organization and the people behind this vision. Founded by Irene Valir, Americas for Conservation and the Arts (AFC+A) is the only Boricua established and led environmental organization of its size in the United States. Rooted in values of conservation and protectionism, AFC+A has created programs that help reunite people to their environment using culture and art as a catalyst for this change. We had the honor of presenting to Irene (Founder & CEO) and Jonathan Cintron (CFO & Senior Director) in our studio critique the other day and she brought to our attention the importance of explicitly introducing our partners. As in many fields, the amount of Latino leadership does not accurately reflect the population in the environmental sector. I’ll let her do the talking:

“Today brown citizens make up 40% of the US population but only 10% of environmental organizations. Supporting organizations like AFC+A is a direct action to bridge this shameful gap and advance a sustainable future where those sitting at the decision-making table regarding the stewardship of our natural resources reflect equity and inclusion. Anything else is not only undemocratic, is bad economics. ”

More details can be found in the link below:

Vision: In conjunction with the Americas for Conservation and the Arts, the UCD’s Landscape Architecture 3rd year students are designing a new vision for the Santa Barbara Eco-Cultura Education Campus in Camuy, Puerto Rico. The multi-use center aims to conserve and enhance ecological function of the site while providing education and recreational opportunities for a variety of users.

User Groups:

Campers: Local teens will stay on site for a certain amount of time (2 weeks, 1 month, etc.) and learn through first-hand experience. For example, if a camper is interested in agriculture, she will spend her time working on the farm and giving tours to other visitors.

Visitors: Day time visitors can come and use facilities including hiking and mountain biking trails, rocking climbing course, and observational decks. Visitors can also sign up for tours and classes in any of the educational hubs. Flex event space can be rented out for birthdays, weddings, meetings, etc.

Guests: Campsites are available to guests who would like to extend their stay to multiple days. Hammock camping, tent camping, and lodging are available on-site.

Instructors: Rotational instructors can live on-site in exchange for teaching and maintaining land.

We’ve split into 4 groups and for the past three weeks to create a master-plan incorporating camping, a permaculture farm, phytoremediation site for the landfill, hiking and mountain biking trails, event space, classrooms, kitchens, and a conservation area.

Design Challenges:

Distance - Since we have not yet been to the site and will not be able to experience it first-hand until after we present our work to the governor of Camuy, this part was extremely challenging. Using solely aerial imagery, topographic models, and diagrams provided to us, we tried to make sense of landscape and provide a context-driven, culturally relevant master plan for the camp.

Topography – The site is situated in between mountains and the topography is extreme. This affects water drainage, building placement, trail layout, access, and a plethora of other details.

Abandoned Landfill – A major aspect of the site is the municipal landfill that was capped in 1995. While more details are needed there is evidence of compromised areas of the capped landfill.

Water Systems and Geography - The topography and karst geology create an interesting water system where surface and ground water intermingle. Separating gray water, contaminated landfill water, and potable water is complex.

Our Design (so far) : CULTIVATE

In all aspects of our design, we intend to cultivate a brighter future for the citizens of Camuy through sustainable land use, educational opportunities, and renewable energy. Drawing influence from Puerto Rican heritage, the natural landscape and ecological systems, we developed a plan aimed at creating careers, community, health and wellness, and energy. Functionality and use of space is extremely layered. A permaculture farm on the hillside leverages the verticality of the landscape for a more efficient use of space and hydrology while providing enough food to feed users. A network of interactive trails provide recreational opportunities and lead to educational nodes throughout the site, each focused on a different subject. Areas of study include conservation, landscape remediation, eco-tourism, agriculture, textile production (hemp), and hospitality. Depending on the student's interest she will be able to tailor a curriculum to fit her needs during her two week stay. A hemp field will provide phyto-remediation services to the landfill and can also produce textile and CBD production.

Moving Forward:

The next phase entails breaking each of the four projects apart, identifying underlying elements, agreeing upon a progam (list of necessary items for the site), and bringing them all together into one cohesive Master Plan to present to the Mayor and citizens of Camuy in Puerto Rico.

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