Indiana ASLA – Year of Public Service

Indiana ASLA – Year of Public Service

Through over 2 years of planning, discussions and ideas from individuals throughout the state of Indiana and as far away as Florida, the Indiana Chapter of ASLA and Outside the Box have come together to pool resources and engage the community in order to create a new sensory garden for this important non-profit organization in Indianapolis.

Outside the Box (OTB) is a provider of day, employment, and art services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  OTB approaches the world of disabilities a little differently with the belief that these individuals should be given the same opportunities as everyone else.  They should be viewed by society, but more importantly, themselves, as capable individuals who can enrich their own lives by contributing to their community.

In July 2011, from the back of an office building with 3000 square feet of space, OTB moved into a new facility of almost 14,000 square feet.  In 2 weeks, OTB doubled the number of participants served as well as the number of staff.  The ultimate goal was always to make the facility feel as comfortable as possible to anyone in the building.  A large multi-purpose room called “The Community Room” was created to allow large groups to get together.  The Community Room overlooked what, at one point, appeared to be a garden.  It had since fallen into a state of serious disrepair.  The idea of putting in a sensory garden was brought up - a universally accessible space that uses colors, textures, sounds, scents, and plants to accentuate the senses.

A group of Occupational Therapy students from the University of Indianapolis surveyed the area and created a mini proposal for OTB.  From there, money was raised at the OTB annual fundraiser, Inside the Bottle, specifically for the sensory garden. 

Fast-forward six months to January 2013.  A phone call from OTB to Dean Hill (long time member of the Indiana Chapter) began a discussion of getting the ASLA involved with OTB’s sensory garden project.  Below are Dean’s recollections of how this partnership began:

In late 2012, I was contacted out of the blue by Ian Nixon.  Ian and I had worked together on a couple of video webisode projects when he was a senior at Ball State, but I hadn’t had direct communication from him for a while.  His email was chocked with pleasantries typical of people that want to catch up and there was a particular request to help him with a specific project at his work.  Now, I knew previously that Ian didn’t work just anywhere, but I wasn’t certain of the particulars other than it was a place that helped others.  That’s when the “click” happened.  You know, that random link that will provide you with a momentary diversion from whatever you are doing at the moment.  Well, that momentary “click” on the link made me realize that Ian didn’t work just ANYWHERE that helped people, but somewhere very special and I was going to try and give this project the full resources that it deserved

After coordinating with the Indiana Chapter and visiting Outside the Box, it was decided that the best course of action would be to have a “Charette”, or community meeting. 

On a Saturday morning in February, 35 individuals comprised of OTB staff, landscape architecture professionals, landscape architecture students, and parents of individuals with disabilities, gathered to formulate a plan of action.  The marriage of people familiar with the needs of individuals with disabilities and those well versed with design and landscape architecture was perfect!  Below are a few testimonials from participants of the charette:

I am really excited to see this dream become a reality for OTB!  I enjoyed meeting with everyone from the ASLA and having their skills and our ideas merge.  It was a great experience to be part of the design process, and learn about how charettes work and be able to see our ideas drawn out.  It will be awesome to be able to take participants out there for sensory activities, and it will really add a lot to what we are able to offer our participants. – Andrew Reynolds, OTB

The Sensory Garden charette was one of the most amazing gatherings of intense and educational collaboration that I have ever experienced!  I love the rain garden design and am so glad that there is a water feature - although I do wish there were some misters in the plan! :).  I know the gliders are going to be a big hit and will provide great movement for some of our higher sensory need folks.  I also know that everyone is going to love the art walls - that's what OTB is and it makes it really personal.  Thanks for everything you've done for us ASLA!!! – Allison Shaw, OTB

After an engaging design charette with OTB staff, family of participants and landscape architects, the Indiana ASLA team had to synthesize the ideas and plans from four separate breakout groups into a consolidated final design plan.  This effort of developing the final plan was led by Professor Emeritus Greg Pierceall.  Professor Pierceall developed two design schemes for the review of the YPS Committee.  After a good discussion by the group and some minor alterations, a consensus final plan was developed for the site.

To prepare for construction, the YPS Committee began with quantity takeoffs of materials (pavings, plant material, mulch, timber, etc.) from the developed final plan in order to properly assess the construction budget and amount of materials that would be needed to complete the project as designed.  These quantities helped the group assess which vendors, contractors, suppliers and others that could potentially be called upon to aid in the project’s completion.

Although this is a public service project initiated by the Indiana Chapter of ASLA with the commitment of donated time, expertise and labor from Indiana landscape architects; materials and costs are still a factor in the completion of this project.  The YPS Committee has taken the quantities of materials identified in the takeoffs to local vendors, contractors and suppliers to help solicit these materials and labor as discounts or even donations.  Indiana Chapter of ASLA has a great relationship with various local vendors and suppliers and many have already expressed interest in joining this community service effort.  Additionally, OTB staff and family of participants will be aiding in the installation labor and serving as the overall quality assurance for their new sensory garden to ensure their expectations are fulfilled.

As the support groups and materials available become realized for this project, the final plan will adapt to fulfill the program needs of OTB while working within the available framework of materials.  During the last weekend of April, which coincides with Landscape Architecture Month (LAM), the project will culminate in a one day work session made up of volunteers from the Indiana Chapter, Student Chapter members from Ball State University and Purdue University, OTB staff, participants and family members.  Please join us for the installation day at OTB and check back in late April to see installation-day photos and the completed project!

Brian Staresnick, ASLA, LEED Green Associate
Graduate Landscape Architect and Urban Designer 



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