AWESOME PROJECT: Try this sombrero-inspired bus shelter on for size

You know how we feel about our public transportation and our tactical urbanism here at ioby, so you can imagine how psyched we were to learn that a bus stop in the East Riverside neighborhood of  Austin is about to get a serious, very conservation-oriented, very awesome makeover.

Picture this: at a bus stop that currently provides no shade structure (even if you haven’t been to Texas, you can probably imagine how that might be a problem in the scorching heat of summer), a community will design and install multicolored fiberglass shade petals that catch rainwater, then distribute it via drip irrigation to a new community garden  below. While you wait for your bus, you’ll be invited to dig in – helping to pull up weeds, reading signage about the native plants at your feet, or just enjoying the greenery. Hello, stress reduction!



[A rendering of the  shade structures, via Mi Jardin’s Facebook page]

Home is where you hang your sombrero

It all started back in September 2014, when landscape architect Sara Partridge was invited to a shelter design charette for what the team has now named the Mi Jardin bus stop. The charrette was organized by local firm AIA Design Voice, which makes it part of their mission to invite community involvement. Partridge jumped on it, and texted her friend Melissa Robledo, who also has a background in landscape architecture, and who sits on Austin’s design commission, to see if she’d join.

“I was like, ‘of course!’,” remembers Robledo.

And that’s how it happens, folks. The magic “yes.” It’s where good ideas and good actions converge, and it’s a sweet spot we love. Two years later, Robledo and Partridge’s shelter design have been selected through a competition, and fundraising is underway.

“Sarah grew up in south Texas,” Robledo says of the origins of their winning design, “close to the border with Mexico, and so she came in and she had a drawing of a sombrero on the center post and said ‘I’d love to do a shelter that’s going to collect rainwater.’ It made her think about growing up among Mexican people and the concept of a sombrero, how it shades individuals.”

The design has evolved – the structures no longer look like actual sombreros – but if you know what you’re looking for, you can just see their roots. “I would use it as a place to chill while I’m doing my little urban walking adventures,” says Robledo, who hopes the design will foster community. “It’s a very personal project for me, because it’s where I live, it’s where I work.”


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[Mi Jardin coordination meeting with Capital Metro, via Mi Jardin’s Facebook page]

Is that rainwater in your hat?

Asked what’s big in Austin design right now, Robledo answers immediately. “Water is a major, major concern,” she says. “Water quality, watering restrictions, keeping water. That’s a big deal. That’s why I’m excited that this project can serve as an example of using rain collection and drip irrigation.”

Right now, Robledo and the team are gearing up for a May 14 planting and garden party – already fully funded via their ioby campaign. Check out their campaign page for details, and to RSVP for the party.

“We already have a native and adaptive plant list put together,” says Robledo. “Texas is plagued by drought. This is an educational opportunity, to let people know that these are the types of plants you can use. And we’d love for you guys to dig in the dirt and pull weeds.”

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[Mi Jardin video shoot, via Mi Jardin’s Facebook page (see the video on the campaign page]

Bus stop or community asset?

Robledo and Partridge know that their vision is big, and that building the shelters will be expensive, but they’re going to make it happen. “I guess it’s kind of bold,” says Robledo, “but we’re trying to really change the mindset of what these public transportation places can be, and how they can have a lot of opportunity within your community to express who lives there, who the riders are, how you can be innovative with the architecture beyond just the typical: shelter, bench, trash can.”


Feeling inspired? Want to take action in YOUR neighborhood? If you have awesome ideas about how to make your town greener, safer, and more fun, let us help! Tell us your awesome idea right here. We’d love to help you get started today.


Pssst…. In OTHER ioby news:


Last year, we challenged people just like you to dream up ways that their towns’ and cities’ public transportation systems could be better, greener, and more fun – and then raise the money to do it! You would not believe the awesome projects they came up with. Check out this short video about an Atlanta resident who teamed up with MARTA to spruce up local bus stops. And then tell us your idea to improve transit (we have match fund$):!