From Gene Bressler: Open Thank You Letter to Syme Raingarden Partcipants

Department of Landscape Architecture

Syme Hall Sustainable Rain Garden Ribbon Cutting

“Soup to nuts” as Andy Fox often says. From project conception to yesterday’s public presentation – an exemplary educational experience for the students, the faculty, the University, the public and for the future passersby of the SYME Rain Garden.

I feel like the proud father whose children have come home with A+ report cards.

On behalf of the Department of Landscape Architecture, students and faculty, I first want to acknowledge Professor Andy for proposing the Sustainable Design Build Studio as a hands-on learning experience. He wrote the proposal that secured a $20,000 grant from the University; he created the curriculum structure for the studio; he set the stage that enabled the students to then develop their design proposals, and then build one of them. He provided guidance and direction when needed. He got out of the students’ way when they needed to figure some things out, and he got in their way when they needed to be challenged and face challenges as the came up to move the project to completion. And in the process in cultivated an impressive cadre of vendors, university staff, and friends.

Along the way that Andy got his feet muddy, generated a few buckets of sweat working along side the students, earned a few blisters, and maybe lost a few hours of sleep. But, that why he get’s paid the big bucks. His big bucks are not in dollars $$$ . They are in the currency of knowing he did his best to provide an extraordinary learning experience in the area of sustainable landscape architectural design for his students, push his own research agenda, and provide the NC State University with this tangible rain garden legacy.

Second, thank you students. I know all of you earned a few blisters, sweated buckets, and learned a great deal in the process – about design, project management, how to deal with the unexpected, work a-rounds, and relationship building. Each of you took a risk with taking a studio for which we had no precedents. In the process, you renewed your passion for landscape architecture and its potential to make a difference. We commend for your hard work, dedication for completing what you set out to do, and for producing an outstanding example of landscape architecture for others to see and learn from. And in the process you’ve made a significant contribution to the environment in terms of demonstrating how we can better manage storm water.

NC State University. Thank you for awarding the grant that made this experience possible. I was wondering what Professor Andy Fox would have done this summer with out it. Perhaps, lay by the pool and sip a few gin and tonics. Nah! Not our Andy Fox! Your support for initiatives like this provides the stimulus that enables our young faculty to extend their scholarship, students to connect their education to tangible outcomes, and your staff to better connect with the work on going in our classrooms and design studios.

Thank you University Landscape Architect Tom Skolniki and others of you from NC State University Facilities and Housing who have provided our students with the benefit of your experiences and for the feed back that made this an outstanding learning experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives. In many ways you saved the day with your tractors, heavy tools, advice, and good humor. And, thank you to the many suppliers who contributed construction and plant materials and advice.

We have a tradition in the Department of Landscape Architecture that comes at the conclusion of our design projects. It is to identify and write about the 3 things we learn from doing a design project. We collect these from all the students and give them back en mass so that they might share what they collectively learned. Today, I will offer up the three things that I learned from this project.
They are:

1. It is possible to make cool places in while working in 90 to 100 degree heat and humidity. What makes this “cool” is the design thinking, energy, and passion that went into creating the vision and the building of the rain garden. Process and Reality: This is an oasis of accomplishment.
2. Mud Happens: That just when you think all is going well, the sewer line breaks and a series of rainstorms hit that transforms the construction site into a muddy mess (all the more reason for the rain garden). When things like this happen, you renew your passion to see the project through, “pick yourself up, dust yourself off”, get back to work, solve the problems with your resources and creativity. And one day, soon thereafter, you succeed.
3. We do better when agile creative hard working thinkers come together for a common propose. We pool our strengths, share our knowledge and expertise, learn from our collective mistakes and celebrate our successes.

From its conception, making, and now reflection the design and making of the SYME Rain Garden has been an extraordinary learning experience for our students, our faculty, and dare I say the various friends we developed within the University. This project proves that great things happen when we work collectively to create the vision and work hard to transform that vision into a living reality. Students, Professor Fox, and others who worked with our students please stand as we take a moment to recognize you.

It is now time for all of us to celebrate the SYME HALL Rain Garden.