Bethany House & Garden is located on 3 acres in Topeka, Kansas. This location once hosted the College of the Sisters of Bethany, an Episcopal school for girls that closed in 1928. It has now become home for the bishop’s offices and an established partnership with Agatha Amani House, a shelter in Kenya for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
When the grounds, used as a place for neighbors to walk dogs and for folks with insecure housing to access water, needed some improvements, the Bethany House team saw an opportunity to more deeply engage various local groups in nature and strengthen community ties: to invite the local high school onto the land, address comments that the surrounding buildings were imposing, and to provide a green space in a neighborhood with no documented public green space.
Goals for this property included demonstrating care for creation, building relationships with neighbors around the grounds, and celebrating the historic connection with the education of women. Nature Sacred consulted with the Episcopal Diocese and the local landscape architects in ensuring that the design reflected input from multiple stakeholders and Nature Sacred’s four design elements.
Installed in phases, the final design includes three sequential gardens: a prairie garden at the entrance to the site, a culinary garden and outdoor classroom, and then an outdoor chapel and meditation garden at the back of the site. The gardens respond to the recurring themes that surfaced during the community engagement process: finding respite in nature and providing an education space. The prairie garden contains limestone boulders for children to play on and will attract pollinators. The culinary garden offers opportunities for partnership with local culinary classes and vocational programs, and further opportunities for urban agriculture as well. The meditation garden, a slightly more private space, hosts outdoor services and other church activities while also being a quiet space for people to reflect.
Jay Graham, Nature Sacred Design Advisor, Moody Graham
Scott Bingham, landscape architect, BBN Architects
Ann Palmer, landscape architect, Designscapes