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Interview with Karl Linn: Community Gardens: Reclaiming a Commons

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One of his accomplishments was to convince the Berkeley planners to turn over a piece of land next to a BART tunnel for the establishment of a communal garden, where it still exists—The Carl Linn Peralta Community Garden.

By Richard Whittaker
Works and Conversations
Apr 29, 2001

Excerpt:

RW: In establishing a commons, would you say, that ideally part of what it would consist of would be a garden?

Karl Linn: Well in the past I saw an interesting development. I worked in about ten cities and established two non-profit corporations and inspired about eight others that were the first pioneering community design centers where volunteer professionals worked with economically disenfranchised neighborhoods helping them to build these common areas—architects, landscape architects, anthropologists, sociologists, lawyers, just name it. There was always some vegetation, but primarily we used recycled building materials, voluntary labor and tax delinquent land. From urban renewal demolition we used marble steps, bricks and flagstones.

So there were a lot of spaces created, but not so much vegetation in them. This was a blind spot on my part because I’d just come out of a regular practice of landscape architecture where there was plenty of money and skilled subcontractors. I transferred this erroneously to neighbors who worked very hard to build these things, but it took too much to maintain them. So I switched over to community gardens, which are cared-for spaces. Community gardeners want to grow fresh produce close to home, and they also want to socialize. But in most community gardens you have one planting bed right next to the other with no place for people to meet. So I found at least one key to some of the puzzles I’ve been experimenting with for more than forty years—that combining common spaces with communal gardens really works very well.

Read the complete article here.