Ka Mala Lani: Re-Planning School Grounds for Growing Pono

Ricordi, Alberto
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This Research Document presents Ka Māla Lani, Blanche Pope Elementary School’s garden, as a safe place of aloha (love) for students to learn about gardening and cultural values. Ka Māla Lani is the place where students who struggle in passive academic methods can feel validated and successful, using active hands-on approaches, which are often lacking during school hours. It is a Pu‘uhonua, a place of refuge and healing, where their troubles are left outside, and students can focus on themselves and on living pono (in righteousness). That is why Ka Māla Lani is called “the Pono garden”. The school garden Ka Māla Lani was instrumental in fostering hope and guiding the community towards a pono way, inspiring students, teachers and other community members to step back and re-evaluate the way things are done. This Doctorate project is an example of the influence of Ka Māla Lani in people’s lives. The goal of this Doctorate research is to develop a site specific participatory design method and a site plan for Blanche Pope Elementary School in Waimānalo, O‘ahu, Hawai‘i. Instead of retrofitting buildings, this research took the landscape as the framework to remediate environmental issues associated to Blanche Pope Elementary School, as well as managing the resources available on site. There is vast literature on the planning, implementation, and use of school grounds, including many valuable publications focusing specifically on Hawai‘i's unique and diverse environmental and social conditions. The proposed site plan incorporates participatory design strategies and design solutions that maximize the experience, efficiency, and self-sustainability of Ka Māla Lani. The concept of “growing pono” guided the development of the proposals in this manuscript. The design proposals incorporate the process of shelter (hale), embracing (storm water management and trellis garden by cafeteria), self-sufficiency (rain water harvesting), and healing (stormwater management). These solutions could be used not only by architects, but also by landscape architects, educators, and other community leaders interested in renovating or establishing comprehensive schoolyards, adapting the concept of pono (righteousness) to their unique environmental and cultural conditions and needs.
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