UI memorial garden to come this summer

A female student in plaid and jeans and a male student in a black jacket and light jeans use a measuring tape on the ground at the top of a green hill. Brick buildings can be seen in the distance.
Architecture students Jackson Wiedenfeld (left) and Harper Drake (right) take measurements at the future site of the Vandal Healing Garden and Memorial on the University of Idaho campus. (Credit: Lauren Paterson / NWPB)



Gardens represent new life, hope, peace and restoration. That is how the students of the University of Idaho are honoring the friends they lost. 

“It’s going to be a beautiful garden just located here on campus,” said Harper Drake, an architecture graduate student and one of the designers. 

The killing of Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle and Ethan Chapin in the fall of 2022 inspired U of I students and people of Moscow to come together and honor the victims and others with a memorial garden. 

“We are thoughtfully designing these spaces so that even people who aren’t going through grief, if they need a break from school, they can come out here to the garden, wander around the garden and get that kind of break,” Drake said. “Ultimately, it’s going to be a space for anyone to come and interact.”

As Drake and the other architecture students pore over notebooks and computers to plan the Vandal Healing Garden and Memorial, they point to architectural models of what the garden will look like. 

“As you wander in and you see the garden, you’re going to come to these spaces that feel a little bit more private and then other spaces that feel more public,” Drake said. 

A green and grey drawing shows a bird's eye view of a garden rendering with cement structures, trees and bushes.

The Vandal Healing Garden and Memorial will be constructed near the old arboretum, across from the Physical Education Building. (Credit: University of Idaho architecture students)

There are 20 students who have been working on the project since the fall. This summer, the students plan to build most of the garden.

Architecture student Jackson Wiedenfeld said the idea is to connect the two different sections together. 

“The interaction between those two spaces is kind of fluid and translucent. One is more open and more garden-like and one is more structured,” Wiedenfeld said. 

As students walked to the future site of the garden on campus, Drake explained how the design involves feedback from students and other residents across Moscow and around the region. 

“A lot of us, we really kind of believe that it’s a part of being something bigger than just yourself. Like you’re involved in a bigger community that really is like a tight family at the end of the day,” Drake said. 

Reaching out to the families of students who have died and the wider community for ideas on how to honor the students made the student community feel stronger, Wiedenfeld said. 

“It brought everyone so much closer together, and it was a really, really powerful thing,” Wiedenfeld said. 

The students turned toward the sloping green field where tiny, orange flags mapped out the future space. 

The students staked it out weeks before, Wiedenfeld said, explaining they’re constantly walking back and forth between the classroom and the site to adjust measurements. 

A drawing shows a side view of the Vandal Healing Garden and Memorial concept, with structures and circling paths dotted with bushes and trees.

Trees, bushes and plants were chosen to ensure the garden is colorful year round, said the architecture students. (Credit: University of Idaho architecture students)

“I think it kind of helped us realize a lot of what needed to be tweaked and helped us start to visualize what it’s going to look like out here,” Wiedenfeld said. 

The plan is for groundbreaking to happen before the semester is over. 

The students are building the paths, structures and helping with planting. A contractor will help with irrigation. The university will handle the electricity.

The students hope to bring in funds to help build and maintain the garden from beyond the campus. To date, they have received $283,268 for the project and hope to raise more. 

For students like Wiedenfeld, this healing garden will not just honor the four who were fatally stabbed. He said it’s meant to memorialize all students who didn’t live to see graduation day. 

“This was a space that I never thought about having on this campus, but as soon as we started this project, I realized this was a space that this campus needed,” said Wiedenfeld. “It’s long overdue and it’s going to be a really amazing thing when it’s complete.”

The students said they are proud the garden will be a place to reflect on life and loss for generations to come. They said it will serve as a space for emotional healing. 

There will be a special monument to honor the four students who died in November 2022. A trial date for Bryan Kohberger, the suspect charged for their deaths, has yet to be set. 

Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.