Last November the team of student-architects from Drury University lead by Nancy Chikaraishi and Traci Sooter, and ably assisted by the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Joplin MO, jointly created the focal points for the Butterfly Garden and Overlook at Cunningham Park. The healing garden commemorates the losses experienced from the tornado that touched down in May 2011. In the years since, the town has shown significant resilience and strength, coming together with the team from Drury University, as well as other project members from Cornell University, Missouri ReLeaf, and the US Forest Service to collaboratively design and build a memorial garden, and to study the healing effect of time spent in nearby nature on this population recovering from natural disaster.
They recently revealed the first fruits of those labors (above), which until now had been encased in their forms and protective framing: a 26’ long water wall etched with the path of the tornado representing the 33 minutes it spent on the ground with the void in the wall marking the time the tornado hit Cunningham Park; and the fountain (below) represents the missing void of the waterwall.
Three steel-framed houses (below) have also been installed and will anchor the garden experience for the visitor. The structures symbolically represent the thousands of homes lost during the tornado and mark the site of the original homes. Gone but not forgotten, like so many lost that day.
Cunningham Park is but one of two healing greenspaces underway as part of the Landscapes of Resilience project; a sister site will be created in Queens NY, a community still reeling from the effects of a different kind of natural disaster, Superstorm Sandy. Research focused on the ability of collaboratively created greenspace to contribute to community resilience and support recovery unites the two parks. We believe the process of building commemorative green spaces can support resilience over time, including immediately post disturbance, during subsequent stages of recovery, and over long-term processes of neighborhood and community change. The communities of Joplin and Queens are helping us to understand more.
Photos courtesy of Drury University