As 2017 year comes to a close, the AHBE LAB contributors are taking time to look back at our year’s worth of posts. We are each identifying the most memorable post and sharing what we found interesting, informative, and inspiring. Enjoy the flashback, and let us know which post you thought was most memorable.

An AHBE Lab post I remember as particularly memorable was a piece written by my colleague Jessica Roberts. Her post “One Neighborly Prickly Pear” tells the tale of a prickly pear cactus growing over her neighbor’s fence, its growth instigating a personal journey of discovery leading to a deeper understanding of indigenous food culture and the niche edible plants can occupy in urban ecologies.

Jessica’s opinion of the prickly pear cactus adjacent to her backyard isn’t adversarial, but considered as a plant that “isn’t dividing, but uniting neighbors”. Her observation highlights even when there is a need to separate neighbors, there are still design solutions capable of mitigating alienation, deter seclusion, and bring people together. What the story highlights well is the potential efficacy of these design solutions when they are grounded in contextual and cultural relevance. It is through these shared, tangible experiences that designed landscapes can become relevant, meaningful, and beloved.

The cactus in Jessica’s post not only grows next to her home, it also produces edible fruit sold by her local market, an integral ingredient of the culinary culture of others in her community. In this case the cactus is not just an arbitrarily selected landscape element with little relevance to the community. The prickly pear cactus is meaningful to the local culture and ecology in a variety of ways, with the power to evoke a sense of connection to the natural and cultural environment that is not easy to disregard or ignored. It is through these shared, mutually-beneficial experiences where bonds between people are established and the foundation of sustainable communities are built upon.

The original post here: One Neighborly Prickly Pear

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