Growing by design

When designing the USC Peace Garden, student landscape architect Daniela Velazco prioritized people and planting.

“A garden is a physical manifestation of people coming together, doing the work and enjoying themselves along the way,” says Daniela Velazco MLA+U/MHC ’23.

Velazco spent the better part of last summer designing the USC Peace Garden, a collaborative community project to rejuvenate what had been a long-neglected university-owned lot located one block north of the Shrine Auditorium.

As a student in the USC School of Architecture’s Master of Heritage Conservation/Master of Landscape Architecture + Urbanism three-year dual degree program, Velazco has engaged with a number of design projects ranging in scale from the hyper-local, like the USC Peace Garden, to the multi-layered regional. Her MHC thesis, for example, involves a historical documentation assessment of Santa Cruz Island.

In the past year working on the project, she has seen firsthand the garden realize its potential for bringing people together.

“A huge pile of mulch was delivered to the garden and I thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s going to take forever to spread around,’” Velazco laughs. “But six huge water polo players came over and did it in like 30 minutes!”

While the garden’s physical property is relatively contained, its community impact is sprawling. Equal parts laboratory, classroom, events space and wellness center, the Peace Garden is bringing together groups from across campus and the community to engage and grow together.

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