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Sydnor Scholer and Sophia Lee designed the Freestanding Garden Screen for the garden patio at Mountainside Senior Living, an assisted living community in Crozet, VA. The form of the Screen emerged as a mediation between function, specific site context, cultural perception of salvaged materials, the unique characteristics of the available salvaged materials, and structure.

Site – The site is a beautiful back garden patio designed, planted, and maintained by MSL resident Mrs. Joan Marshall.   However, the true potential of the garden was limited by its undefined edge: residents felt unsafe when cars pulled up to this edge. A screen was needed to block the parking lot view while retaining the distant mountain views.  Another issue was the lack of wheelchair accessible tables.

Cultural Perception – Currently, reuse does not fit into our culture of capitalistic consumption. For example, the original desire was to use pallets in their recognizable form to create a new use as a screen. However, because of the perception of pallets as “garbage,” they needed substantial transformation to gain acceptance as a salvaged material.

Materials Network – Sydnor Scholer and Sophia Lee established a local network of salvage sites through the help of Leslie McDonald, a designer associated with Abrahamse & Co. Builder in Charlottesville. Family networks are also vitally helpful. John Scholer found 36 pieces of 4 ft long, treated, 2×4, dimension lumber that was headed to the dumpster. He kindly drove them over from Lynchburg, VA.

Joints for Warped Pieces – As Sydnor Scholer and Sophia Lee explored miter joints for constructing “frames,” they learned that warped wood is incredibly difficult to use with traditional wood joints. Warped wood refused to come together at normal 90 degree angles. The joint had to change to L brackets. This joint allowed for vertical wood pieces to rotate on the vertical (or “z”) axis while meeting the horizontal end pieces at a 90 degree angle.

Available Material – There is an abundance of pallets. Aside from cultural reasons, they are difficult to reuse because they are designed for one time, singular use. They are difficult to dismantle because they use sprial nails. The easiest way to dismantle them is to jigsaw them apart, but this method limits the usable wood size to about 18”.

Structure – In response to both its function and site, the Screen needed to be freestanding. To achieve stability, the frame arrangement is triangular in plan. For lateral stability, the frames are attached at both top and bottom using a base and small “box connectors.” The box connectors were sized to use the 18” pallet material.

From the Skype conversation with Lionel Devlieger during our final review:

Sophia: “Our miter joint exploded.”

Lionel: “I’m glad you had the experience of exploding wood.”

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