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National, State Awards Pour in as New Education Center Helps Beardsley Farm Grow 
Beardsley Farm Education Center

Once hurting for restrooms and climate-controlled office space, Beardsley Community Farm now boasts an architecturally compelling, LEED certified education center that was recently awarded with several national- and state-level accolades.

Residing on City of Knoxville property in Malcolm-Martin Park between the Burlington and Beaumont neighborhoods, the new Beardsley Farm Education Center features 1,200 square feet of indoor space and 1,800 square feet of covered outdoor space.

Beardsley Farm Education Center
Bruce Cole Photography

The structure brought to the six-acre Beardsley Farm much-needed accessible restrooms, admin offices, food storage space, an outdoor wash area, fully accessible parking, and a water catchment system for irrigation.

“Thanks to the professional assistance from our partners, this project resulted in a state-of-the-art, energy efficient welcome center that promotes urban agriculture to the greater Knoxville community, all from a City-owned park,” said David Brace, Senior Director of the City’s Public Works Department.

Before this new education center, the farm’s urban agricultural resources were as bountiful as ever—ranging from gardens that generate over 10,000 pounds of home-grown produce annually (which is primarily donated to food pantries throughout town), bee hives that produce enough honey to jar with Beardsley Farm labels, a chicken house where fresh eggs are collected daily, and composting stations that help keep the soils rich for harvest.

But before the education center, Beardsley Farm visitors were more your die-hard gardeners who didn’t mind the elements (or portable toilets).

Before the education center, the lack of restrooms prevented many school field trips from being able to schedule longer, more enriching education segments at Beardsley.

Outdoor Classroom
Students from Anoor Academy of Knoxville learn about urban agriculture in the new outdoor classroom.

Now, the new facility is allowing staff at Beardsley to extend services and programming (including Farm Yoga sessions!), lengthen school field trip visits (because of the newfound, ever-essential presence of restrooms) and even entice more newcomers to experience urban agriculture for the first time at no cost.

Farm Yoga
A Farm Yoga session in the education center's outdoor classroom.

“It’s been over a year since we opened the education center, and the difference this building has made in our operations and experience of our visitors is invaluable,” said Khann Chov, Urban Agriculture Director at Beardsley Farm. “On top of that, the sustainable efforts in the building have helped to keep our energy costs manageable.”

The Beardsley Community Farm Education Center project is unprecedented, particularly in its process from start to finish. The Community Action Committee (CAC), the non-profit agency through which Beardsley Farm is managed, and the City of Knoxville collaborated with the University of Tennessee’s College of Architecture and Design to both design and construct the facility.

Through the college’s Design/Build/Evaluate initiative, University of Tennessee (UT) students gained hands-on experience through design of the facility (with oversight from professors and contribution from Elizabeth Eason Architecture) and by laying brick donated from General Shale, a local brick company. City of Knoxville Public Service crews executed most of the heavy-equipment related work.

Brick Laying
UT Design and Architecture students learned the art of brick laying firsthand with this project.

“Our students helped create a place that is vibrant and functional for the farm while also being open to everyone in the community,” said Jennifer Akerman, Assistant Professor at UT College of Architecture and Design and faculty leader for the team of students who completed the project. “The functionality of the new building in the farm’s routine is as innovative as the process it took to build it.”

That innovation is now getting recognition at the national and state levels.

The Tennessee Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Tennessee) just named the Beardsley Community Farm education center this year’s recipient of the organization’s highest honor, the Design Award of Excellence, making it the only new construction project honored at that level in the state this year.

In July, the Brick Industry Association awarded the new education center with the national 2017 Brick in Architecture Award in the Municipal/Government/Civic category.

And, in February of this year, the project was recognized with a national teaching award for innovation in collaborative practice by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), the primary architectural organization in North America.

“These awards recognize the importance of the unique design collaboration that allowed this new Education Center for Beardsley Community Farm to have happened,” said Akerman. “The students brought a fresh perspective to the design opportunities present here, and their insight and advocacy strongly informed the quality of architecture that was possible, even under tight budget and time constraints.”

Indoor Classroom
The Beardsley Farm Education Center's indoor classroom. Photo by Bruce Cole Photography

Click HERE to view a previous City blog post on the ribbon cutting ceremony for the education center. 

For more information on Beardsley Farm, visit www.beardsleyfarm.org.

Posted by On 09 August, 2017 at 5:02 PM