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The Gardeners from Eden

Every crisis has the potential to turn the ordinary into something special. Roberto Villaseñor Zugasti (27) combined his love for plants with his passion for community and created a green space for everyone to enjoy right next to the student dorm of the University of Liechtenstein. 

Roberto welcomes us with a boiling cup of tea in his hand and a big smile on his face. He recently graduated from the University of Liechtenstein with a masters degree in architecture. We sit down on two comfortable benches made out of up-cycled pallets. The leafs above our heads shield us from the sun. It is hard to imagine that just a few years ago this space “had absolutely no purpose”, besides giving grass a cyclical existence of life and death.  


(photo) Small steps are necessary to create something big

Robertos love for plants started at a very young age, when his grandma gave him a small Bonsai Tree. The plant ignited a spark, that led  to study architecture at the “Universidad Iberoamericana” in his hometown of Mexico City. Together with his friends Carlos and Juan he wrote his bachelor thesis about urban gardening. The project behind the thesis did not go unnoticed. The three friends won a scholarship to continue their studies in Liechtenstein. The contrast could not have been bigger. A giant pulsating city that extends over 60 km and a giant university population on the one hand. And a dozy country nestled in between Switzerland and Austria, where students have a very close professional relationship with their professors on the other.  

 (photo) The first vegetables and herbs are planted

“When you buy a plant you will also put your personality into that plant” Roberto tells me while slurping his tea. When he got to Liechtenstein the first thing he bought to embellish his dorm room was a plant. It did not remain at that. Plants need companions too. One plant became two, two became three and soon enough the entire floor resembled a jungle. Much to the appreciation of the other students. Plants became an opener to meet new friends and talk about a common passion.  

 (photo) The dorm community makes sure the table stands straight

When the pandemic hit Liechtenstein Roberto observed how the dormitory turned from a place guzzling with life and energy into a cheerless prison. Everyone seemed to have a strong need for belonging and purpose. Roberto and his friends deliberated, how architecture could create community by crafting a common goal. The answer lay right in front of them. 

 (photo) Weed exhaustion. Two overgrown cropping beds lined the entrance of the dormitory

Two overgrown vegetable patches ornament the entrance of the dormitory. Roberto started organizing small events, where people could come together, remove weeds and have a cold drink. Then the idea crystallized, that the dormant strip of grass in front of the dorm could be turned into a garden. A meeting spot that could generate community.  

 (photo) Co-initiator Carlos with two flatmates

The municipality was thrilled about the project. “The most interesting thing about the garden is, that it was not designed, it just happened”, Roberto tells me. Over a period of two years students, neighbors and friends shoveled, planted, pruned, trimmed and poured lifeblood into the project. A fruitful addition to the core team was Thomas “the engineer”. “Without him we would still be having a table at an angle” Roberto adds chuckling. Materials and plants were donated by the community. Additionally the university allocated a small budget for the project, which became the mandatory “probono” community-project for the three students in order to graduate.  

(photo) Almost alle trees and plants have been donated by the community

Khaki, Kiwi, Strawberries, Rosemary, Kale and grapes line the garden now. “I love that people think its a public park, a garden should be accessible for everyone”. Roberto hopes to have initiated a culture of appreciation for the garden among his friends and flatmates. Soon he will leave the dormitory and take another small step towards working for famous architect Renzo Piano. However his dream is to “come back one day and see all the trees grown and random students, that do not know me, enjoying themselves in an inviting place”.  

If you want to know more about the project and enjoy the garden do not hesitate to visit the student dormitory. Someone will be there to introduce you to the different plants and show you the manual with all the instructions. A small garden of Eden is waiting for you right here! 

(photo) "It started with one plant in one room and it just grew" says Roberto

Here you find the address of the student dormitory 

Studying Architecture at the Univeresity of Liechtenstein 

Do you want to help shape a sustainable society using your own initiative like Roberto? At the University of Liechtenstein, you can. 

The Master’s degree programme in Architecture reflects the diverse and complex challenges facing architecture as a socially responsible profession today. An understanding of and an active engagement with cultural sustainability are at the heart of its curriculum. Here you get all information about the 

Author: Gianluca Purzer (International Summer Academy for Journalism and PR 2022)

This great blog post by Gianluca Purzer is one of his practical tasks for the International Summer Academy for Journalism and PR in 2022. The four-week university course at the University of Liechtenstein in Vaduz is aimed at journalistic beginners and young professionals from the four-country region of Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland - and all other German-speaking countries. This training is free of charge for the 12 students thanks to scholarships from the Liechtenstein government. Upon successful completion, they take home 10 ECTS points. 

Cover photo: Roberto picking currants in the finished garden (Photographer: Priska Wörl, 8/14/22) 


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