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Cal Poly Landscape Architecture Students Design/Build Playground for South Africa Orphanage

The Cal Poly landscape architecture students designed a playground for an orphanage in Alexandria Township, South Africa on a trash-strewn dirt lot beneath power lines.

A 5,000-square-foot playground for the Ratang Bana Orphanage in Alexandria Township, South Africa, the work of a team of undergraduate Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Calif., landscape architecture students, has received an "Award of Excellence" in the community service category in the 2014 ASLA Student Awards. The project was one of only three awards of excellence in the annual competition that attracted 500 entries from 77 universities across the nation. The student awards will be presented during ASLA's annual meeting in Denver on Nov. 24.

"The has absolutely changed the face of the surrounding community," said David Watts, interim chair of the Cal Poly Landscape Architecture Department, who organized the project and traveled to South Africa with the students.

"The playground was designed and built for 350 children. The ASLA jurors applauded the reuse of materials, range of activities, creative use of resources and admired the graphics, energy and attitude of the playspace.

The student team members were: Michael Aguas; Alex Clark; Andrew Elias; Alex Henige; Ryan Higginbotham; Alix Kidwell; Joanne Mark; Amanda McCaulley; Erica Monson; Rachel SantaOlalla; Nick Tuttle; Tony Webster; and Julianna Wild.

The students broke into groups in the spring 2013 quarter to research child development needs for the three age groups (1-3, 4-7 and 7-15) at the Ratang Bana Orphanage, a name meaning, "Love the Children." When the 13 students arrived in South Africa in early September of 2013, they had only eight days to complete the playground, including grading the site, installing the site elements and planting/establishing the native drought-tolerant flora. The students had little in the way of construction experience, but did have their professor and some community members who worked beside them every day.

"At each day's end, our team saw the joy we had brought to this community with each element we implemented," said Professor Watts. "By the end of the project, we knew we had created something special these children will
never forget."

For more on the 2014 ASLA Student Awards visit

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September 22, 2018, 10:15 pm PDT

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