Edible architecture growing in Calimera Park
By Phreddy Wischusen
Special to the Michigan Citizen
The slow process of creating living architecture in the Osborn neighborhood’s Calimera Park is in full swing. The “Edible Hut” will be erected this summer thanks to a combined effort from artists, students, schools, community organizations, neighborhood residents and a grant from Community Public Art Detroit (CPAD).
The “hut,” doubling as a sculptural installation and a public gathering/event space, will feature an “edible” roof made of drought resistant medicinal and food plants, including chamomile, echinacea, thyme and yarrow.
LiveRoof, a Michigan company founded by botanists, will build the roof, though the Friends of Calimera Park and a team of neighborhood students have selected the plants and will design their aerial layout.
What makes this project different from so many other public art projects in the city is its living component: Not simply the life of the plants on its roof but the life in and of the neighborhood needed to help sustain those living plants. The plants, in turn, will help sustain the neighborhood.
In 2011, CPAD had a number of artist proposals for ways to improve Calimera Park. The Greenbrier Community Council, which has since become the Osborn Neighborhood Alliance (ONA), was asked to select the best project for the neighborhood.
Since the council was already looking for ways to address food security and healthy lifestyles, artists Mira Burack and Kate Daughdrill’s proposition to build an Edible Hut was a perfect fit.
History shows us that while modern technology and supplies make building new structures relatively fast and easy, maintaining and maximizing the benefit from those structures and the relationships that support them can be considerably more complicated.
In order for the Hut to truly make a lasting impact in the lives of the neighbors, it will need to become indivisible from the neighborhood itself. These are the reasons why Burack and Daughdrill have spent so much thought and energy weaving community participation into every step of the artistic, design and building processes.
These are the reasons why Hui-Ling Malone, a teacher at the nearby Nsoroma Insititute, not only brings her students to work on the project but joins in the work, painting and sanding with the kids.
These are the reasons why Osborn High students Destiny Hardaway, Ti’Keya George, Steph’an Quicksey and college student Imel Battle have given up months of Saturdays to transform what was once a garage in southwest Detroit into what will be walls of the Hut.
“There were hard days working on the Hut in the cold last winter, but in learning that I can build the Hut, I’m learning I can make my dreams come true,” said Battles.
Their labor will pay off this summer when they have the pleasure of hearing live music in their local park, eating food they grew themselves on a structure they built and feeling great thanks to the healing herbs they’ve harvested from the roof.
Over the past two years, this alliance consisting of Burack and Daughdrill, ONA, Nsoroma Institute, students from Osborn High and local residents, including retired welder and grill-maker extraordinaire James Hines, has given birth to the Friends of Calimera Park, an organization that will both care for the plants on the roof and link the Hut to the community.
Strong sustainable bonds between neighbors and organizations will help the plants, the Hut and the neighborhood grow stronger and healthier each year.
In the end, Daughdrill muses, “The quality of the work is determined by the quality of the organization.”
For more information or to become involved, visit www.facebook.com/EdibleHut