January 5, 2010
Landscape architecture student focuses on restoring, preserving her hometown through Sustainable Cities Initiative program
Rena Schlachter hopes to create a greener Gresham, Oregon as part of her UO studies
EUGENE, Ore. -- (Jan. 4, 2010) â€“ This yearâ€™s Sustainable Cities Initiative (SCI) program at the University of Oregon hit home to landscape architecture graduate student Rena Schlachter. Literally. The SCI program, designed to provide university students with real-world sustainable city planning, chose Schlachterâ€™s Gresham, Oregon hometown to kick off the programâ€™s first year.
Lying to the east of Portland, Gresham has undergone increasing gentrification changes in recent years. Portland inhabitants have begun to move away from high-density city housing and into smaller neighboring cities; such as Gresham. But Schlachter fondly recalls growing up in a city that had only outskirted the Portland metropolitan area.
â€œIâ€™ve lived there since I was a kid,â€ said Schlachter. â€œI remember going to the annual Jazz Festival downtown, all the football games in high school, running track, and playing in the Johnson Creek in the woods behind my house. My family still lives there and Gresham is still my home.â€
However, Schlachter adds, much has changed since she went to high school. The economic downturn hit the community atmosphere hard; school districts and housing have consequently been affected. This is why, Schlachter says, sheâ€™s happy the University of Oregon and the SCI program have come up with different approaches to tackle these problems.
â€œIn urban planning, thereâ€™s a great need for collaboration. Iâ€™m excited the university is encouraging students and Portland metro organizations to join forces and spread a sense of community for the future of Gresham,â€ said Schlachter. â€œAnd with an emphasis on sustainability, weâ€™re planning for a long-term positive impact.â€
Schlachterâ€™s studio group for the program focuses on integrating native habitats and new housing units at Gresham Crossing; a 4-acre wetland site previously used as a logging pond. Located close to the MAX line, the overall idea was to aesthetically enhance the site in the most environmentally-friendly way possible.
â€œMy groupâ€™s approach was to preserve, restore, and establish,â€ said Schlachter. â€œWe wanted to find a way to co-exist new housing development with site preservation. That meant doing things like building housing on the edge of the site so itâ€™s not intrusive to the natural habitat, getting rid of invasive species, minimize parking and maximize public transportation access.â€
For Schlachter, a big component of the sustainability project was to not only leave a â€œminimal human footprintâ€, but also to leave a sense of pride in the Gresham community. Real-life simulation outside the classroom let students come up with multiple solutions to tackle sustainability as well as community issues.
â€œI see this as a transformational educational experience for â€˜real worldâ€™ design and planning opportunities, â€œ said Brook Muller, a UO architecture professor and Schlachterâ€™s studio instructor, adding, â€œRena is a fabulous student; she has offered valuable insights as far as the environmental, social and economic context within which we are working.â€
With a project so close to home, Schlachterâ€™s efforts to improve Greshamâ€™s sustainability and raise pride in her hometown are beginning to take flight.
About the University of Oregon
The University of Oregon is a world-class teaching and research institution and Oregon's flagship public university. The UO is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), an organization made up of the 62 leading public and private research institutions in the United States and Canada. The University of Oregon is one of only two AAU members in the Pacific Northwest.
Contact: Rena Schlachter, M.L.A graduate student, Department of Landscape Architecture, 541-740-0544, firstname.lastname@example.org
. Story by Emily Wilson.
Source: Brook Muller, Associate Professor, Department of Architecture, 541-346-3647, email@example.com
Links: UO Sustainable Cities Initiative, http://sci.uoregon.edu
; City of Gresham, http://greshamoregon.gov