The JSR Foundation awards scholarships to students who demonstrate a passion for preserving, improving and enhancing public spaces through responsible and innovative land use and design. To be eligible, students must be currently enrolled in an accredited landscape architecture program that will result in a Bachelors or Masters of Landscape Architecture. A monetary scholarship is awarded each year to one deserving student. Students are required to submit a design brief for review by the JSR board.
Publicly subsidized housing is often stigmatized. These ‘projects’ are often tucked away, and degrade due to lack of funds and attention. In order to provide low-income housing, governments across the country have a need for economic viability at the sacrifice of livability. With 1,500 residents condensed into a 10 block Denver Housing Authority (DHA) Project, Sun Valley is no different.
I am from a corner of this world where trees stood as tall as cathedrals, and solitude was the prevailing theme. A place so serene, and sculpted that bonsai naturally formed in the forgotten stubs of trees, now left to swim in the glacier melt. Eagles nested there, friends sought out our corner of wilderness for respite, and I was inspired daily.
Later, fresh out of college and still young and tender at heart, I was lured into the marble hallways of the United States Senate. Under the pretense that I could make a difference I forged ahead. I worked tirelessly on behalf of the democracy I believe in. A democracy where individuals are not only born with equal standing, but where opportunities abound to hold tight to that equality, and success is an option. Policy can do that, and I wanted a part of it. And in the midst of all the glitz and the glamor of the political realm I found that to achieve true democracy you must create a space of equality. I found that space in the form of a tiny rooftop garden.
A seemingly empty space can become full of meaning if it is cultivated correctly. I hauled in soil and seeds; I may have broken my condo rules by snaking a hose up four stories to supplement nature’s gift of fresh water. But in the end, I created a space. A space where hard work, laughter and food were cultivated. Where a half dozen Members of Congress, a handful of academics, and I, sat each night, watching our vegetables come to fruition. There was no more valuable time for me. Sitting, peacefully, all politics aside, as equals.
I knew at that point, that a space can be a greater means to a democratic end. Or, at the very least it could be for me. And so, I pivoted, like so many politicians do, and turned my eyes toward shared space: thoughtful urban planning, a well-placed park, or the renewal of a once toxic site…These are the weapons I choose to wield. All for the sake of a healthy community, a strong democracy, and naturally…For the beauty of it.