Imagine a green space in the heart of your
neighbourhood designed to provide fresh organic food,
conserve and recycle resources, create native
bird/insect habitat, and generally improve the local
quality of life.

—  Geoff Johnson, Originator *


Originally designed by local permaculturalist Geoff Johnson and a rag tag team of urban back to the landers, the Spring Ridge Commons was created from an unusual blend of wisdoms.  The designers connected ecological principles from local eco-systems,  design principles from the study of permaculture, community input from neighbors and gardeners, and years of careful observation of the site to  create a  design for the space.

Original Design Goals:

– Teach People About Local Food

– Teach People About Permaculture

– Create a Local Gathering Space

– Increase Regional Diversity

The original intention was rather broad.  The hope was to create a space that would teach people something about permaculture principles, allow people to harvest herbs and fruits locally,  create an open public space for gathering and relaxing plus increase regional diversity and sustainability.

To put it simply, Spring Ridge Commons was intentionally designed and was created with the experience of the end users in mind.  What designers sometimes call — From the inside out.  But it was a living design — one that was always intended to shift and change to meet local, ecological, social and physical needs.   It is very true to say that the design continues to evolve as local realities shift.

From the inside out, but also with some outside intentions forced in….

While it was designed from the inside out with the end users experience in mind,  Spring Ridge was also designed with a degree of outside in thinking with permaculture design and food production very much at the fore.

The Spring Ridge Commons is an interesting example of the power and potential of designed learning environments.  As a learning space, Spring Ridge Commons was created with the intention of teaching people about the possibilities and potential of urban food production.  However, its existence at the crossroads of several diverse community groups  has created it is much more than this.  Spring Ridge has become a community hub where the rich interact with the poor, the homeless with the housed, the yuppy with the hippy and the young family with the mentally ill.

The site establishes common ground between all people who enter….



The power of this site as a learning environment, stems from the fact that, on this site, when picking plums from the same tree, all these diverse people stand or climb on level ground.  In order for true learning to take place, people must feel safe,  they must have their needs met and be comfortable enough to open themselves to one another.     At Spring Ridge, the lack of straight lines or formal or familiar structures create a sense of ease and naturalness.  People at this site seam less inclined to take on structured roles and become simply human.

The environment of the Spring Ridge Commons allows people from an astounding diversity of backgrounds to feel at ease and to communicate both between themselves and with others on this site.  Through this shared comfort, people learn about food, about plants and  more importantly about each other and themselves.

Within the environment of the Commons,  there are several different mediums which are designed as teachers.  Signage installed in 2009 help people to navigate the many species that are on the site and to learn more about each species.  The plant themselves are also important medium through which learning, development and nourishment all happen. Through interacting with these mediums in the environment of the Commons, people create, develop and connect to meanings.

Interpretive Signage for Morello Cherry Tree

While it was originally designed to help visitors identify more with the importance of local food production and  connect to the meaning of local plants, Spring Ridge has blossomed as a learning ground because of its social context.  The diversity of people who access and use this site and who feel comfortable in each other company creates it as a rich learning environment mediated by the original design intention around local food.   In this case, the original design as a learning space has blossomed into an even richer fabric which connects communities and builds understandings between people.  The kind of learnings that now happen in this space are incredibly diverse, indeed as diverse as the knowledge of all the people who use it.

Certainly this site continues to teach its visitors about the potential of urban food production but perhaps even more importantly the site helps people to construct meanings and identities within a rich and diverse social context.  They feel comfortable enough with unfamiliar others, while on site, to welcome these people into their own construction of self, creating this space for a much more compassionate and accepting community.

By creating open spaces where a broad diversity of people can communicate on common ground, the power of the learning of Spring Ridge Commons that happens on site is amplified – No longer is it just those who belong to the social context of this space that are able to effectively learn.  The power of the Spring Ridge Commons is that it is a different enough to ensure that no one social or cultural group can claim it as their own and so that  everyone who enters this site does so on equal terms in an engaging and unfamiliar  learning environment.  By establishing an environment with mediums of learning that do not easily connect to any social constructions, the Spring Ridge Commons helps people to construct new meanings and identities in true community without fabricated social roles or hierarchies.

Source:  Springridge Learning by Matthew Kemshaw:

Spring Ridge Common(s) — A Community Learning Space

Investigating how a local food forest in the heart of Victoria continues to evolve into an important hub for community learning and growth.

*  Source of Quote:  Spring Ridge Commons Wants You  p. 1  (Spring 2003)

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