The raised planters for elderly and school children are a part of the Marzahn community garden in Berlin. The brief was to design and build new planters to improve the existing garden. Defining intended users, functionality and aesthetics was up to the group itself.

Four week, four person group project, summer 2018
Edible City Berlin, Summer University
Technical University of Berlin

My role:
As the only student with formal design training, my role fell to facilitate and guide the rest of the group through the ambiguity of the design process. This meant sketching out ideas, synthesizing and visualizing concepts, and managing the inputs of the group: a trained carpenter, an urban planner, an engineering student and an entrepreneur. Our discussion had of course to be steered around the insights we learned from the field and user research. The build itself was a group effort, following construction plans made by David, Sven and Sebastien.

Overview photo of planters in community garden
Accessible and educational planters

Together we built two planters; one for elderly and wheelchair users, the other for use in gardening lessons by the local childrens school.

The children’s planter has an educational focus, with two distinct features; an upper “stage” letting one study the plants up close, and an underground window showing the layers of compost and the plant’s root system.

Top level of educational planter
Full overview of educational planter Close up of soil window of educational planter

The wheelchair and elderly accessible planter is split into an upper and lower section, accommodating a wheelchair or bad back, and also has a bench section behind it.

Top level of educational planter
Main and side sections of planter and bench

The planters are now a permanent part of the SPIEL/FELD Marzahn community garden.

Full overview of educational planter Close up of soil window of educational planter Full overview of educational planter Close up of soil window of educational planter Close up of soil window of educational planter
Camille, 21

Seattle, USA

Electrical eng. student

Sebastien, 40

Paris, France

City planner

Sven, 50

Rosenheim, Germany

Pilot and entrepeneur

David, 22

Saskatoon, Canada

Finance student

Glenn, 22

Oslo, Norway

Product design student

Sattelite image of Berlin and Marzahn
Spiel/Feld Marzahn community garden Broken planter to be replaces
Location and demographics

Marzahn, a deprived area on the outskirts of Berlin, has a long history of agriculture. Unfortunately, it has suffered from people moving away from the area due to lesser quality housing and cultural life. A central challenge of the area, is that people have less self initiative than in the central areas of Berlin, where local engagement is much higher.

The garden is actively used by local residents and the local a children’s school. However, it was not built to last, and the previous planters had all disintegrated into unusable states.

Map showing stakeholders, their locations and interests in the Marzahn neighbourhood
Defining user scope

Early on, we chose to design our planters for the schoolchildren and the elderly. While the educational use of the garden was already of great value to the community, we also saw that the garden itself wasn’t really accessible to the local nursing home.

Early sketches from group workshop

Through group sketching workshops, we arrived at three concepts worth exploring:(a) Modular installation (b)Inclusive gardening (c)Revealing the hidden underground

To be able to design and produce more efficiently, the group decided split the work into two separate modules, each incorporating a separate concept and use.

Early draft sketch of layout Perspective sketche interpreting early draft sketch CAD iteration of layout Refined CAD model of layout
From draft to layout

By working individually in different sketching mediums, and then discussing the comparisons, we got to look at different solutions to the same concept. Individual interpretation of each others work allowed for new ideas to emerge.

Close up image of wooden panels used for planters
Treated terrace boards

The final materials was chosen due to being both cheap and already planed and treated, saving us both time and budget money.