The students of Assistant Professor Nick Gelpi and Chair of Landscape Architecture and Associate Professor Roberto Rovira are in the process of building a butterfly garden at Oleta River State Park. Four groups of students from the College of Architecture + The Arts are building four different sections of the garden, but all groups are using “woodcrete” to build their structures. The word “woodcrete” describes the mixed material made from concrete and the plant melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia), which is an exotic, invasive tree that threatens the Everglades ecosystem. The result is porous structures, like stepping plates and seats in the garden, that allow for the easier drainage of rainwater. The project aims to use such an environmentally friendly material to add even more beauty to the park.
Jane Reilly is the President of Friends of Oleta River State Park, a support organization that raises funds for the park. Reilly had contacted the FIU Department of Architecture to express her interest in collaborating with its students and faculty. She connected with Professor Gelpi and his class, a decision she is proud to have made. “I was at the park for the student presentations. The mock-up structures and ideas were very exciting,” said Reilly. She commented on the students’ willingness to learn and to present their best work. “The professionalism of the architects in charge of the project is apparent in the enthusiasm and involvement of the students.”