Members of the Freedman Seating Test Lab and Engineering Department recently completed a special project with NeighborSpace, the only nonprofit urban land trust in Chicago that preserves and sustains gardens on behalf of dedicated community groups.
NeighborSpace shoulders the responsibilities of property ownership — such as providing basic insurance, access to water, and links to support networks — so that community groups can focus on gardening. NeighborSpace-protected gardens give young and old alike an opportunity to get their hands in the earth and enjoy nature, right in their own neighborhoods.
David O’Malley, FSTL Technical Manager, had previously worked with NeighborSpace on a project close to his home. The McKinley Park Community Play Garden was opened in 2018 with fantastic outdoor architecture. “After the project, I mentioned that I worked at a manufacturing company and could work on a new sign for the garden,” said O’Malley.
Located just five minutes from Freedman Seating headquarters, the Children’s Garden of Hope (4052 W Potomac Ave., Chicago, IL) connected with Team Freedman with a special request to design and manufacturer a welcome sign for the garden.
The garden was started by three long-time residents of the West Humboldt Park community. They wanted to improve the safety and education for the children in the neighborhood. It was created to be a place where children can learn gardening skills and come together as part of the community to appreciate the beauty of growing things. They will be able to carry these skills with them for the rest of their lives. Bettina Savage is the local garden leader, but there are several neighbors, young and old, that garden. Nobel Neighbors partners with the garden and the garden is part of Growing Pride. There are several raised beds in the garden with perennials and vegetables.
David involved Will O’Connor, Design Engineer at Freedman Seating on the new project. “He is a design engineer and very passionate about green initiatives. I knew he would love the project,” said O’Malley.
Will O’Connor joined the project to brainstorm and create design concepts for the sign. “After bouncing some ideas around with the NeighborSpace leadership and seeing the garden in person, I thought a personalized interpretation of the Chicago Flag would be ideal,” said O’Connor. He used the same layout and color scheme as the Chicago Flag, including blue text and red symbols over a white background.
The four symbols represent garden-focused aspects of Chicago and Illinois:
- a common blue violet as the Illinois state flower
- a compass to represent the grid structure of Chicago and the major neighborhoods of Chicago on the North, South, West and the Lake on the East
- clouds to represent weather and the nickname ‘Windy City’
- the White Oak leaves as the Illinois state tree
“The two plant-stylized symbols flank the city symbols. The stylization of the compass as a sun balances the clouds and all four together show the harmony and balance nature and cities can have when thoughtfully cared for and tended by it’s residents, like Neighbor Space. It was an honor to work with everyone involved,” said O’Connor.
The multi-color sign is powder coated, galvanized steel with multiple layers to create depth. Layers are fixed together with stainless steel rivets and epoxy to create an installation to last through the years.
The project was overseen by Robin Cline, Assistant Director at NeighborSpace Urban Land Trust. Both David and Will planned, communicated and installed the sign at the garden in July. Freedman Seating is proud to offer a hand with local initiatives supporting quality work and safe play throughout our communities.