LATEST DESIGN BUZZ: Institute, pollinator committee pursue Bee City USA designation

The latest design buzz for Columbus builds on landscape architecture this spring and summer.

Columbus Pollinator Committee, with the Columbus Design Institute serving as a programming collaborator and fiscal agent, will launch free public programs to pursue a “Bee City USA” designation for Columbus from the Xerces Society.

More than 200 communities nationwide currently boast such a designation. Bee City communities support landscape collaboration and establish and maintain healthy pollinator habitats.

The official launch of this effort will be a volunteer event at Fresh Start Recovery Center at 703 Washington St. in downtown Columbus during United Way of Bartholomew County’s Day of Service on May 21.

Fresh Start Recovery Center’s lawn will be redesigned by Columbus-based landscape architect Rachel Kavathe of Loci Creative to feature hundreds of beneficial native plants and flowers.

The landscape will offer vital food to endangered local pollinators, such as butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, and more. The plants will be purchased in partnership with the local Winding Waters Sierra Club chapter, with funds provided by a grant from Duke Energy Foundation.

Hillary England, interim program director for the Fresh Start Recovery Center, is looking forward to the efforts.

“The staff and clients at Fresh Start are very excited to have this opportunity to help create a beautiful atmosphere,” England said, adding that she felt the flowers would “give a place of peace to the community and our house.”

This planting event will kick off several volunteer opportunities throughout the year at both Fresh Start and Blackwell Park, which is home to an established seven-plus-acre pollinator park.

The park features hundreds of native pollinator-friendly plants that were reused from the 2019 Exhibit Columbus Exhibition “Untitled” installation by Frida Escobedo on the Bartholomew County Public Library Plaza.

In addition to direct plantings, the pollinator comittee and the design institute seek to galvanize community awareness about the need to protect and expand pollinator habitat in Columbus — and connect this thinking to the design of our public spaces. To do so, in July the two groups will host a free screening at YES Cinema of “Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf.”

The presentation is a documentary on world-renowned landscape architect Piet Oudolf, a leader in the emerging New Perennial Movement.

This movement, which informed Kavethe’s designs at Fresh Start, uses a naturalistic planting layout to design landscapes that work in conjunction with nature’s natural ecosystem functions. The screening will be followed by a conversation and question-and-answer session with Kavathe and Sarah Hurt Evans, landscape architect, and moderated by Ben Valentine of the Columbus Design Institute.

Rick Johnson is a member of the Columbus Pollinator Committee, and board president of the Landmark Columbus Foundation that is the umbrella agency over the design institute. He pointed out that excellence in landscape design impacts far more than visual beauty.

“Although Columbus’ commitment to design is usually represented by its collection of Modernist buildings, our city is defined just as much by the contributions of landscape architects,” Johnson said. “Just as the tangible heritage of our city is worthy of care, celebration, and advancement, so too is the natural beauty of our county.

“Healthy ecosystems mean productive farms, safe drinking water, clean air, and fun outdoor activities that are vital for creating a healthy and vibrant community in the long term,” he said.

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Although Columbus’ commitment to design is usually represented by its collection of modernist buildings, our city is defined just as much by the contributions of landscape architects. Just as the tangible heritage of our city is worthy of care, celebration, and advancement, so too is the natural beauty of our county. Healthy ecosystems mean productive farms, safe drinking water, clean air, and fun outdoor activities that are vital for creating a healthy and vibrant community in the long term.

— Rick Johnson, Executive Committee, Columbus Pollinator Committee, and Board President, Landmark Columbus Foundation

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The Columbus Pollinator Committee is at work in other parts of the Columbus community. Work is underway to create a one-acre pollinator meadow at the Columbus Airpark Campus adjacent to the eastern edge of their community garden.

The ground is currently being prepared for a fall planting by seed, with plants first sprouting in spring of 2022. This effort is being completed in collaboration with county and state leaders in conservation: the Bartholomew County Soil and Water Conservation District, The Nature Conservancy, Sycamore Land Trust, and the Sierra Club. All of this work is funded through a 2020 Duke Energy Foundation Nature Grant.

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Columbus Design Institute is a technical service initiative of Landmark Columbus Foundation that promotes the Value of Good Design that built Columbus. It collaborates with partners through its design process to encourage meaningful investments in the sustainable and equitable development of communities.

Landmark Columbus Foundation cares for, celebrates, and advances the cultural heritage of Columbus. To fulfill its mission the organization directs three locally-engaged and globally-connected programs that are interwoven in their impact and networks: Landmark Columbus, Exhibit Columbus, and Columbus Design Institute.

For more, visit landmarkcolumbusfoundation.org.

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