The gardens of Villa Victoria
One of the first things that struck me about Villa Victoria how green it is. In addition to the rows of trees that line the streets, each unit has a front yard with a small plot available to garden. In the bright September sun, summer vegetable gardens continue to produce beans, peppers and tomatoes. Several yards burst forth with dahlias or black eyed susans. More shady plots are filled with signs, holiday decorations or even plastic palm trees, which may speak to a nostaligia for native Puerto Rican greenery.
There is something about gardens that, on first thought, seems incongruous with the general perception of public housing. Much of the current stock of public housing was created as a temporary way-station for veterans returning from World War II, and most of the buildings were designed with a similar expectation of impermanence. A living garden, however, cannot be so transient, as it takes time, patience, and care to tend a plant from seed to flower. There is something quite striking about how the design of Villa Victoria– its pedestrian friendly streets, community plaza, private yards– lends to a sense of permanence, giving its residents a place not just to live but a place to put down roots.