University of Idaho senior Bernardo Bautista works construction each summer in his hometown of Walla Walla and enjoys seeing his finished work whenever he returns. But his senior capstone project in the College of Art and Architecture will provide a new level of pride when it’s complete next summer.
Bautista and 18 of his peers are working on designs and will eventually help build the Vandal Healing Garden and Memorial. The group put in long hours this semester simply gathering input from the community and understanding the scope of the project, which will serve as a place to reflect and remember all fallen Vandals.
“I’ve built buildings before but nothing compares to this,” Bautista said. “We’re a part of the entire process and it’s already been healing for a lot of people. There’s a lot of emotional investment and it definitely motivates us to take it seriously and do our best work.”
Team member Cole Kelsey transferred to the U of I from the University of Washington in 2022. He quickly gained friends through his architecture courses and he jumped at the chance to join a project that means so much to the Vandal Family.
“We are Vandals and we’re the only ones that can succeed in this and do it justice,” said Kelsey, who like Bautista, will graduate in the spring. “There is a little bit of pressure, but I think the team that we have gives us confidence.”
The team began presenting conceptual designs recently — including a display in the ISUB Atrium — for the campus community. The site for the garden and memorial is tentatively set just north of Shattuck Arboretum and east of the Physical Education Building.
Emily Stuart, a junior from Idaho Falls, contributes her landscape architecture expertise to the project. The team recently began incorporating some of the project’s constraints, which helps zero in on the design. For instance, the memorial needs to be ADA accessible and one of the university’s water mains sits below the project site. But endless possibilities remain.
"We’re trying to think broadly about the entire campus, the city, the region,” Stuart said. “So far a lot of our education has been hypothetical situations. Now we have real clients — it’s the most real-world situation we’re going to get.”
The Vandal Family already raised more than $220,000 for the project from more than 300 donors. A Vandal Strong bracelet fundraiser organized by students last spring contributed more than $20,000. Donations are still being accepted through the Vandal Healing Garden and Memorial website.
Dozens of community members participated in a design charrette last month, sharing feelings and ideas about the look and feel of the memorial. Kelsey took eight pages of notes at the charrette and his team takes each bit of feedback and inspiration to heart.
“This process has really helped us understand the community more,” Kelsey said. “Our studio is a mess right now, but it’s getting good. It’s just an honor to do this, to know that I’m giving something back and creating a place that I’ll come back to visit throughout my life.”