Safe Haven Leveling the Playing Field by Creating a Home for the Unsheltered, Homeless, Water, and Native Plants

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Virginia Tech

Through natural and constructed elements, landscape architects design public landscapes to engage the public in the great outdoors. While many local governments and designers actively create landscapes to keep the unsheltered and homeless out of public spaces, keep water in storm drains, and keep native plants on the periphery of the public landscape, my project, Safe Haven, is about creating an inclusive public landscape for people, water, and native plants. Preliminary research into the history of property ownership, discrimination, economic inequality, and government programs for the unsheltered created a picture of why certain demographics struggle with housing. Case studies of homeless encampments in the Washington DC area of NOMA, Abbot's Camp in Austin, Texas, and car camping in San Diego, California, and Seattle, Washington, gave insight into the current landscape needs of unsheltered people. Studies of the watershed and plants native to the site inspired a water retention system and a seasonal pallet of plants. The design incorporates existing infrastructure, new buildings, a natural playground, wilderness camping, a Mount Vernon-inspired vegetable garden, and a sunken garden designed to retain water while showcasing native plants. Describing the design are narratives sharing the perspective of water, native plants, the unsheltered, and the homeless. Lady Landscape guides the stories and offers her views on the responsibilities of a landscape architect.

Homeless, Unsheltered, Re-purposed Infrastructure, Vegetative Swale, Sunken Garden, Shopping Center, Activity Center, Water Retention