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Grassroots Education

When Andrew Fox surveyed the grounds behind Syme Residence Hall this spring, he saw a landscape in distress.

“It was basically denuded of plants,” he says. “When it rained, it got squishy nasty.”

But he was concerned by more than just the threat of muddy footwear. As an assistant professor of landscape architecture, Fox recognized an even more serious problem caused by poor landscaping. Rainwater was carrying sediment – along with pollutants – down a brick walkway and directly into the storm water system that connects to the newly restored Rocky Branch Creek.

Assistant Professor Andrew Fox

Assistant Professor Andrew Fox gets his hands dirty cleaning up the landscaping behind Syme Hall.

Not good.

So Fox applied for and received a grant from the Provost’s Office to harness the design power – and muscle – of his grad students to find a sustainable solution to the problem. The result, which will be officially unveiled at a ribbon cutting ceremony Aug. 17, is both functional and enjoyable.

After weeks of digging up dirt, pouring concrete, tilling soil and laying bricks, the students have essentially created a natural filtering system in the form of a garden. Plants with deep roots are used to absorb some rainwater. The rest is channeled into a cistern and into filtration zones, where it flows through layers of mulch, sand, soil and glass beads called cullet to remove pollutants and sediment.

New Versus Old

“The goal of the rain garden is to slow the water down and filter it, then return it to the water table,” says grad student Melissa Miklus, who participated in the project. “It’s the new way versus the old way.”

The project was new in another sense. It was the first design-build studio in landscape architecture ever offered by the College of Design. But Fox says it won’t be the last.

“A typical studio project only goes as far as a presentation on paper,” he says. “What design-build allows you to do is actually come to terms with how difficult it is to implement a project because you’re really out there doing it in real time. It also forces creative problem solving on the spot, which is what design is all about.”

The ribbon cutting ceremony begins at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 17, in Burns Auditorium in Kamphoefner Hall, followed by a tour of the site.

Watch a Video of the Work on the Ground

13 responses on “Grassroots Education

  1. kofi boone says:

    excellent work. can the labels and/or subtitles be moved? they are overlapping so hard to keep up with who is talking.

    1. David Hunt says:

      The captions can be toggled on and off using the button labeled “CC” in the right bottom corner of the video.

  2. Stan Williams says:

    Okay, I’m impressed!!
    Wow, impressive work all the way around – Andrew and students together! And kudos to the University for the wisdom to fund this real-world learning experience!

  3. Christine Hilt says:

    I’m so proud of the direction that the program is going!

  4. Carla Radoslovich Delcambre says:

    Nice work! The project is amazing. This is a great way to start the fall semester!

  5. Professor Fox,

    Bravo, this is an important step in what Landscape Architecture should be about. What better way to learn than to do it. In the words of Yoda, “do or do not there is no try”

    Professor Kofi Boone used this phrase after each of his e-mails. My own teaching at State always emphasized a “Hands ON” approach to Community Design and Development. Bravo
    again, what a great project!

    Angelo Abbate, Professor Emeritus
    NCSU, SOD, Dept of LA 1977-2006

  6. Emily McCoy says:

    Can’t wait to see the final product! Good job everyone!

  7. Susan Litlle says:

    This is awesome. Congratulations to everyone who had a hand in it.


  8. Bea Sanford says:

    I am continually amazed at what the students and faculty of NC State are doing for our campus, for our community, and in this case, our environment. Way to go, Professor Fox, for identifying this opportunity for our students to get real life experience, for securing the funds, and overseeing this project that is making an impact in the lives of North Carolinians. Looking forward to seeing it on August 17.

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