Photography: Mark Hanauer

Venice, CA

Los Angeles Archdiocese
Oxford lagoon Subwatershed

Transforming a concrete jungle into an urban oasis.

Isabelle Duvivier manifested a vision for a sustainable school campus which realized the design and transformation of St. Mark’s School from an all asphalt elementary/middle school site into an urban oasis. The project provides significant environmental benefits to its Venice campus, including a cutting-edge water infiltration system, more open space and the addition of new drought-tolerant landscaping/trees and a community garden. These improvements are part of the private TK-8 school’s Greening and Water Reclamation Project, a $150,000 initiative funded by school families and church donors, and that has received the support of local environmental groups.

The project boasts a host of environmental benefits, including the ability to collect 3,000 gallons of water at one time in six newly installed cisterns, and capture an additional 12,000 gallons in an underground water infiltration pit and ‘eco-rain’ boxes carved out near the school’s lunch tables. In addition, the school removed roughly 13,000 square feet of asphalt and installed neutral-colored permeable pavers in its place, helping to address drainage problems facing the 1950s-era school site for years. 2000 SF of toxic astro-turf and rubber matting was removed and replaced with playground engineered mulch. A 1200 SF “farm” area for veggie gardens was also installed. 33 drought-tolerant trees were planted around the yard with guidance from TreePeople, a nonprofit group dedicated to growing a green and climate-resilient Los Angeles.

The school greening project was acknowledged for its forward thinking-design by the Los Angeles City Council and received a school of the year award from TreePeople.

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