Fredrick, Herman’s co-lead on the project, is a professor of classical studies and director of the Tesseract Center for Immersive Environments and Game Design at the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. He will guide Tesseract Center staff and student interns in developing the virtual experience, which will take the form of a “multilinear, 3D narrative in six chapters, informed by Herman’s interpretive guidance.” A press statement elaborated that the narrative will “feature three key themes through which Jones’ work explores the human condition: the sense of one’s body in relation to space and design, the effect of architecture on social relations within and beyond the family, and the occupant’s relation to the elements and rhythms of nature.” “The project will leverage key principles from game design that we feel are consonant with Jones’ design approach—multilinear narrative, discovery, surprise and reflection,” Fredrick elaborated. “Through the combination of these principles, the user will interact with the natural elements of water, fire, glass, stone and light, triggering 360-degree video clips that will highlight the primal importance of shelter and immerse the user in the landscape of the Ozarks.” Jones, who passed away at his Fayetteville home in 2004 at the age of 83, was also a University of Arkansas alumni. (The Architecture and Design School was named after him in 2010.) Jones is the only Wright protégée to receive the AIA Gold Medal. That same honor was bestowed this year to Marlon Blackwell, founding principal of the eponymous Fayetteville architecture firm and distinguished professor in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design. While a modest handful of buildings—Jones was somewhat of a specialist in otherworldly venues for vow-exchanging—designed by Jones have been recognized by the wider architecture community, Thorncrown Chapel, completed in 1980 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000 alongside the Jones family home, remains his, well, crowning achievement. It’s undoubtedly one of the most internationally recognized works of architecture in the Natural State, which, as AN has written about in detail, is a current hotbed of architectural innovation.
Architect Fay Jones studied with Frank Lloyd Wright, and his work lives on in homes and structures around NW Arkansas. The Fayetteville Public Library is hosting an interactive display to educate the public about him. https://t.co/b1BxKOcSHX #experiencefayetteville #arkansasicon pic.twitter.com/UbEGRFFySn— Clinton House Museum (@clintonmuseum) February 27, 2020
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The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design and the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas with $250,000 to help bring the work of its namesake—the architect and native Arkansan E. Fay Jones—to virtual life through interactive gaming technology. The funds, awarded through an NEH Digital Projects for the Public grant, will be used by professors Greg Herman and David Fredrick to fully develop Housing the Human and the Sacred, a digital experience that will allow users to explore six of Jones’s architectural creations via touch-based kiosks, virtual headsets, and an interactive internet platform. Housing the Human and the Sacred is a further realization of A House of the Ozarks, a three-years-in-the-making prototype virtual experience that enables users to virtually tour the self-designed Fayetteville home Jones shared with his wife, Gus. Like most of Jones’s work, his family home was designed in accordance with the principals of organic architecture espoused by his mentor, Frank Lloyd Wright. In addition to the Jones family home, completed in 1956, Housing the Human and the Sacred will feature virtual tours of four obscure and largely inaccessible residential projects designed by Jones—Sequoyah Project, Hartman Hotz House, and Brothers House, all in Fayetteville, and Stoneflower near Heber Springs. The show also includes his most well-known—and certainly most visited—work, the Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs. “An Arkansan himself, Fay Jones is one of the most important and most influential American architects,” said Herman, an associate professor in the Department of Architecture and director of the Fay and Gus Jones House Stewardship, in a news release. “As Jones himself put it, more eloquently than I could, architects have ‘the power and responsibility to shape new physical and spatial forms in the landscape, forms that will sustain and nourish and express…the human condition at its spiritual best.’ Fay certainly achieved this, and a big part of what we’re trying to do is ensure more people get to experience what he’s talking about.”
A powerful combination of natural resources and local initiative is pushing one southern state to the forefront of architectural innovation in the country. In Arkansas, a place that’s far from the profession’s traditional epicenters in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, big things are happening. In Bentonville, Wheeler Kearns Architects just repurposed a defunct Kraft cheese factory into The Momentary, the contemporary offshoot of the Moshe Safdie–designed Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Over two hundred miles south in Little Rock, Studio Gang and SCAPE Landscape Architecture are working together to renovate and extend the Arkansas Arts Center, a 104-year-old cultural institution attached to MacArthur Park. Construction on the 127,000-square-foot project broke ground last fall. At the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, a massive research complex, the Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation is slated to come online in 2022 courtesy of Grafton Architects, and last year the school finished the country’s largest mass timber building, Adohi Hall, a 202,027-square-foot dormitory designed by a team led by Leers Weinzapfel Associates. Topographically, Arkansas varies widely from its forested and rocky northwest corner to the eastern wetlands that follow the Mississippi River. Fifty-six percent of the state is covered in forestland. From the mountainous Ozarks region in the northwest to the deep-soil Delta in the southeast, the state’s diverse wood basket supplies yield high-quality forest products, along with 27,000 jobs in paper production and wood-related manufacturing. According to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, some of the state’s largest employers include Georgia-Pacific, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Weyerhaeuser, and WestRock Corporation, each owning at least two manufacturing facilities or more within the borders of Arkansas. The timber industry is one of the state’s biggest economic drivers. The Walton family, a.k.a. the founders of Walmart, Inc., is another. The Walton Family Foundation has made it its mission to develop high-design public buildings and community gathering spaces for the state’s Benton and Washington counties, home of Fayetteville, Springdale, and Bentonville. Since Walmart made the latter its home base in 1971, it’s required all collaborators and retailers to set up shop in the area as well, thereby forcefully growing the population of the city year after year. The ripple effects of Walmart’s investment are already being felt around the state. While Adohi Hall might hold the title of America’s biggest mass timber building now, Gensler’s design for Walmart’s new timber-structured Home Office in nearby Bentonville will surpass it with 2.5 million square feet of mid-rise office space and amenity buildings. Canadian manufacturer Structurlam announced in December that it had bought an existing building in Conway, Arkansas, for $90 million and will retrofit it into a mass timber facility so that it can, in part, supply Walmart with the 1.1 million cubic feet of timber products needed for the project. Hardy Wentzel, CEO of Structurlam, said that latching onto a large-scale construction project at the start of a new site investment is a dream come true. “It really helped solidify our desire to move to Arkansas in our first U.S. expansion. I wanted to anchor my investment with a large contract and Walmart was the perfect opportunity.” Structurlam isn’t the only timber manufacturer expanding into the state. Texas CLT recently reopened a defunct laminating mill in the southwest city of Magnolia where it produces CLT products from southern pine and Douglas fir. Walmart, however, doesn’t compete with hardly anyone—especially in Arkansas. For the last six years since 2015, the Foundation has utilized its burgeoning Northwest Arkansas Design Excellence Program to get major firms working to reshape the region such as Ross Barney Architects and de Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop. Other firms slated to do future work include Architecture Research Office, Deborah Berke Partners, MASS Design Group, Trahan Architects, and Michael Van Valkenburgh Architects. Last summer, LTL Architects completed an early childhood education center in Bentonville and Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects was chosen to create a 50-acre cultural arts corridor in Fayetteville. The latter project will thread through downtown near the city’s recently-opened performing arts center, TheatreSquared, designed by Marvel Architects. When asked about her first impression of Arkansas and the Design Excellence Program’s work to fabricate these places with consistent new construction, Lissa So, founding partner of Marvel, said the initiative, which “seeks to preserve a sense of place by encouraging quality design of public spaces,” according its website, doesn't feel contrived. “Arkansas feels like home to me,” So told AN. “I grew up in Upstate New York and I love the close-knit community and emphasis on connecting with nature.” So sees the 50,0000-square-foot TheatreSquared—which has attracted much buzz since opening in August—as part of a cultural renaissance in Northwest Arkansas. The project embodies Fayetteville’s desire to develop its arts-related offerings and get more people interested in downtown. In 2006, it adopted a citywide master plan with zoning updates and street enhancements that enabled these goals. “Arkansas thinks of itself as the epicenter of arts between Chicago and Miami and if you look around, it feels that way,” said Jonathan Marvel, principal of Marvel Architects. “When it comes to building the city of Fayetteville itself, there’s a significant amount of attention and pride devoted to craftsmanship and ownership here.” The local design community is also rife with regional pride and uses the state’s abundant resources like timber and stone to build structures that speak to local designers’ mission-driven ambition, according to Chris Baribeau. Baribeau is the design principal and cofounder of modus studio—one of the teams behind the $79 million Adohi Hall and the university’s new corrugated aluminum Sculpture Studio. Much of the firm’s work involves designing K-12 schools for Arkansas’ rural communities, which fulfills its bent toward helping underserved populations. “There’s a real opportunity here to do something that’s meaningful,” he said. “We can prove that our approach to design and construction is actually for the betterment of people, not just about making beautiful objects or celebrating ourselves. There’s certainly a strong contingent of architects in Arkansas that believe in that ethos and work hard to make a difference here.” To many young architects like Baribeau, Marlon Blackwell is at the heart of this approach to design. Blackwell has worked in Arkansas since 1992 and is the most recent recipient of the American Institute of Architect’s highest honor, the 2020 AIA Gold Medal. If anyone has observed and influenced the changes that Arkansas has experienced in the last 30 years, it’s him. His eponymous firm’s seminal projects, such as the Keenan TowerHouse, completed in 2000, and the St. Nicholas Eastern Orthodox Church, finished just over a decade later, shaped what became a new vernacular in Arkansas, one that’s continually broken down preconceived notions of what buildings look like in the American South. To bridge the gap of recognition that the state deserves, Blackwell, like other area firms, promotes projects from other practices and preaches about the culture of working in the region. “Many of us are standing on the shoulders of great native architects like E. Fay Jones and Warren Dennis Segraves,” he said, “but the difference between our work and theirs is that we are now taking on the public realm. There are many younger firms out there willing to fight the good fight and push progressive thinking on major civic projects. It’s a continual battle, but much of our recent success has also come from an enlightened clientele.” Whether it’s the university or the Walton family providing opportunity in Northwest Arkansas or arts organizations, the public school system, or business development districts looking to invest in the state’s southern half, projects are aplenty. As part of the architectural profession, Blackwell said, it’s his responsibility to demonstrate that every one of those opportunities deserves good design. “Our mission is to provide alternative models that change the benchmark of reality for folks here,” he added. “The more examples you can point to, the more reality is improved.” Take the Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation, the focus of a design competition facilitated by the University of Arkansas. Timber is a dominant focus of study at the university’s Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, where students get to work with a cast of high-profile professors like Blackwell, who shares his passion for sustainable materials, and Stephen Luoni, who directs the award-winning University of Arkansas Community Design Center. Since Peter MacKeith, dean of the Fay Jones School, came to Fayetteville from St. Louis in 2014, he’s been working to deepen the school’s timber research program. A major part of this is the Timberlands Center, which will expand the university’s ability to undertake research projects, MacKeith said. The school already operates out of its longtime home Vol Walker Hall and the Marlon Blackwell Architects–designed Steven L. Anderson Design Center. “So much of what we’re doing across the school is emphasizing the relationship of thinking to making and the ambitions of our students have become larger in scale, tools, and techniques,” MacKeith said. “We’ve outgrown the capacities of what we can do in our existing building.” In mid-March, Grafton Architects, led by 2020 Pritzker Prize winners Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, won an international competition for the Timberlands Center, besting 68 other entries and five other shortlisted firms: WT/GO Architecture, Dorte Mandrup A/S, Shigeru Ban Architects, Kennedy & Violich Architecture, and Lever Architecture. The competition was partially funded by grants from the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities. To MacKeith, the momentum that the university has built over the last five years is due in part, because Arkansas is a small state and the school’s reach of influence extends all the way to the top. “We saw an opportunity where design education could be a benefit to the state’s greatest natural resource and my approach has been to make sure that the governor, the state legislature, as well as investors, and people at companies in Arkansas, understand that we can be part of the forest ecosystem,” he said. “Generally speaking, our students are quite concerned about the world they are going to be practicing in and living in and they want to be able to act responsibly. As a public land grant university, that’s why we work so much with people outside the corners of our campus.” It’s this open-minded ambition that is pushing a distinctive architectural agenda in the state. Chris Baribeau added that there’s an undertone of respect across Arkansas for the critical thinking and people-first attitude that local architects are bringing to projects, though he acknowledged that it’s taking some work to get that same respect on a national stage. Arkansas is speaking up.
Following a lengthy design review process, Irish architecture firm Grafton Architects was chosen by the University of Arkansas’ Board of Trustees to design the institution’s new Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The firm, which was also awarded this year’s Pritzker Prize earlier this month, won out against five other big-name practices, including Dorte Mandrup A/S, Shigeru Ban Architects, LEVER Architecture, Kennedy & Violich Architecture, and WT/GO Architecture. “This is fantastic news,” said Farrell and McNamara of Grafton Architects in a press statement. “We are very excited about building our first building in the United States in Fayetteville, Arkansas. This building helps us think about the future optimistically, where the use of timber with all its possibilities, becomes real, useful and hopefully loved.” The $16 million facility, in partnership with the local modus studio, will become the Fay Jones School of Architecture's design research center and will be built with a major emphasis on timber, a building material that has become increasingly popular in the past few years in North America for its structural properties and ability to sequester carbon. The department’s brand new graduate program in timber and wood design will be housed in the new building, along with existing and forthcoming design-build fabrication technologies laboratories. “We want people to experience the versatility of timber, both as the structural ‘bones’ and the enclosing ‘skin’ of this new building," said Farrell. "The building itself is a teaching tool, displaying the strength, color, grain, texture and beauty of the various timbers used.” Like most other projects designed by the firm, the building will have a civic quality with plenty of natural light throughout its interior spaces that, in turn, makes the innovative research visible to passersby. The board of trustees was impressed with Grafton Architect’s demonstration of timber’s potential, noting that their proposal "creates a memorable institutional landmark for the urban landscape of Fayetteville.” Peter MacKeith, dean of the Fay Jones School of Architecture, added that “this selection, in short, is a landmark day for our school, our university and our state [...] As an accomplished, recognized women-led practice, Grafton Architects confirms for all our students that the design professions are equally theirs in which to find their identities and to realize their potentials.” The project was funded in large part by a grant from the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, both of which see great potential in the timber building industry. “The University of Arkansas has been a leader in showcasing all the benefits of mass timber architecture,” said Carlton Owen, CEO of the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities., in a press statement “We are looking forward to the results of a leading architectural university working with this year’s Pritzker Prize winners to take wood-based architecture to new heights.” The comprehensive design phase for the Anthony Timberlands Center is scheduled to begin this summer.
Last year, the University of Arkansas (UA) received a number of design submissions for the Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation, an extension of Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, with an emphasis on timber construction research. It was recently announced that six finalists have been chosen from a shortlist of 69 firms spanning 10 countries: Dorte Mandrup A/S, Shigeru Ban Architects, LEVER Architecture, Kennedy & Violich Architecture, WT/GO Architecture, and Grafton Architects (the winner of this year’s Pritzker Prize). All six entries were designed with cross-laminated timber (CLT) that would be sourced from the state’s forestry reserves and will include faculty living quarters, classrooms, conference areas, classrooms, studios, and fabrication technology laboratories. “The expressed ambition of this project,” Dean Peter MacKeith of the Fay Jones School told the University of Arkansas News, “is to achieve design excellence of the highest quality and to demonstrate innovation in materials and construction, with a particular focus on the potentials of mass timber and wood products.” The winning building will act as both an extension to the architecture department and a key component of the university’s Windgate Art and Design District, a cluster of arts buildings on campus. MacKeith also cautioned that the renderings provided by the architects “are speculative concept proposals only, representing research, methods and visions, not intended or actual buildings.” The building will be the third on campus constructed using CLT, following the Leers Weinzapfel Associates-designed Adohi Hall residence in 2019 and the Miller Boskus Lack Architects-designed Library Storage structure in 2018. The design competition was first announced in 2018 following the acquisition of a $7.5 million gift from donors John Ed and Isabel Anthony. Additionally funded by a grant from the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, through the Mass Timber University Grant Program, the project is expected to cost $16 million to construct, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Construction is expected to begin in summer of this year and finish by December 2022.
America’s largest mass timber building has opened at the University of Arkansas. Spread across a series of interconnected structures, Adohi Hall is a 202,027-square-foot residential project constructed from cross-laminated timber. Boston-based Leers Weinzapfel Associates led a national design team of heavy hitters for the $79 million project: local practice modus studio, the St. Louis-based Mackey Mitchell Architects, and Philadelphia's OLIN helped bring the sustainable, 708-bed student complex to life. Located on a sloping, four-acre site on the Fayetteville campus’s hilly southern end, Adohi Hall features a nature-centric design with room for classrooms, a community kitchen, lounges, a rooftop terrace, and more. Linked by a ground-level passage called the “cabin,” the large-scale, dual-volume complex snakes around the linear lot and is configured around three courtyards. As the nation’s first CLT "living learning" setting, Adohi Hall was built for undergraduates but is also targeted for architecture, design, and art students, and features ample programming to reflect that. Throughout the four-story facility, communal areas encourage collaboration while “workshops,” or maker spaces, provide students with the opportunity to rehearse or host performances, record music, or participate in other live/learn events. The design team integrated exposed structural wood throughout the project to remind residents and visitors of the building’s groundbreaking construction. Exposed timber columns, ceilings, and trusses bring a sense of warmth to the interior spaces, while generous light also shines in through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows in the cabin area and provides views of the surrounding landscape designed by OLIN. The majority of Adohi Hall’s facade, which lightly cantilevers over the first-floor, is less obviously about wood and features zinc-toned paneling with copper and white accents. In a statement, Andrea P. Leers, principal of Leers Weinzapfel, noted the stark contrast between Adohi Hall and the other Collegiate Gothic-style architecture on the university’s campus. She noted that the contemporary residential building is fitting for the site despite its differences, especially given the administration’s commitment to sustainable design. “We drew inspiration from the regional context of the Ozarks, creating a living/learning environment powerful enough to be a destination remote from the center of campus,” said Leers, “and the wood-based construction system we developed forges a bond between setting, human comfort, and sustainability.” Adohi Hall (adohi meaning woods in Cherokee) was named as a tribute to the tribe members who passed by the site on the Trail of Tears. The area’s long history as a heavily forested region motivated the architects and the university to pursue this ambitious mass timber project. Leers Weinapfel Associates told Architectural Record that they responsibly-sourced European spruce, pine, and fir for the structural components of Adohi Hall, while cypress was selected to outfit the interior. It makes sense that the University of Arkansas—with its Fay Jones School of Architecture committed to researching and teaching wood-based construction—would be the first school in the country to build a large, CLT-based residential complex. As mass timber manufacturing grows in Arkansas and the surrounding states, it’s a possibility that other Southern institutions will follow Adohi Hall’s lead.
Following a soft opening last June, Modus Studio’s hovering Tree House has been captured amid its fully-installed landscape in the firm’s native Arkansas. Tree House sits above the Garvan Woodland Gardens, a 210-acre botanical garden owned by the University of Arkansas—frequent Modus collaborators. Rather than sitting at the base of the oak and pine trees found in the Evans Children’s Adventure Garden, Tree House has been elevated to the top of the forest, allowing for expansive views of the canopy. The L-shaped treehouse snakes through the trees, ballooning from a child-sized opening at one end to a two-story observation area, capped with a steel screen, fabricated in-house by Modus, that mimics leaflike capillaries. Other than its biomorphic shape, the treehouse is strongly defined by its central steel spine and 113 timber ribs, which were sourced from local Southern Yellow Pine. The fins simultaneously allow the elements to pass through the treehouse while potentially obscuring the forest and adding a sense of mystery for the occupants. The first of three planned treehouses, the structure was envisioned as a refuge for children to explore the outdoors while learning about nature. Everything from the infrastructure, to the programming, to the intricate finishes, reference dendrology, the study of trees. Visitors can access the treehouse either from an elevated trail or directly from a staircase at the forest’s floor. The Fayetteville-based modus, an Emerging Voices 2018 winner, cited its deep ties to Arkansas’s rural landscape in designing Tree House and were directly involved in every step of the project's process.
The average swingset, built in backyards and playgrounds across the country, features loads of metal and plastic. Somewhere Studio, a young firm based in Arkansas, is unintentionally turning that unsustainable construction on its head with Salvage Swings, a series of swing modules made from reclaimed timber. Coming to Roosevelt Island this summer, the project is the official 2019 City of Dreams Pavilion winner, selected through a competition hosted annually by the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the Structural Engineers Association of New York, and FIGMENT, a local arts organization. Salvage Swings was born out of the University of Arkansas’s Fay Jones School of Architecture and its Fabrication Laboratories. Jessica Colangelo and Charles Sharpless, founders of Somewhere Studio, teach at the Fayetteville campus and conceived of the project last year as a way to reuse the wood leftover from the construction of the school’s new student housing project, Stadium Drive Residence Halls. The 200,000-square-foot mass timber building, designed by local firm Modus Studio, as well as Mackey Mitchell Architects, Leers Weinzapfel Associates, and OLIN, using cross-laminated timber and glulam-panels from Binderholz, an Austrian manufacturer that ships its products on sacrificial palettes also made of CLT. Somewhere Studio is taking these palettes and using them for the pop-pup playspace in New York. According to Sharpless, the palettes are perfect products to experiment with because they aren’t graded for commercial use. “Even though it’s a raw material that’s basically used for storage, it looks and behaves like processed cross-laminated timber,” he said. “When we began the project, it occurred to us that we had this big pile of wood staring at us that would otherwise be thrown away, so we decided we wanted to show off its quality and strength.” Designed to stand as a temporary public piece of interactive art, Salvage Swings will feature 12 individual swing modules that can be set up together to form a triangular communal space. Each module will be constructed from the palettes, which will be cut, cleaned, and sealed at UArk, and then painted with different patterns and colors to add personality. Sharpless noted the idea to create a swingset wasn’t top of mind at the start of the design process, but the use of salvaged timber heavily drove the form of the installation. “The shape of the boxes is intended to provide some structural rigidity,” Sharpless said. “CLT is light, flexible, and you can work with it quickly. We angled each box so that when you’re looking at one from a single direction, it starts to flatten out. Then from another direction, it starts to heighten your perspective and create a sense of layers.” These changing perspectives also bring a sense of playfulness to the pavilion—a core goal that Somewhere Studio tries to achieve in its work. Repetition is another design move the firm often features. In the triangular shape of Salvage Swings, the repeating boxes provide unique frames for visitors to view Roosevelt Island and the surrounding city. While Salvage Swings is in-part an experiment in the effectiveness of CLT as an exterior construction material, the project is also a way to encourage fun. “We like the idea of engaging people who might not be attracted to an architectural or art installation or know immediately what ours is made of,” said Sharpless. “So it’s exciting to showcase this really beautiful product and educate the public about its strength. At the end of the day, though, we want people to have fun and, in particular, for children to gain a sense of play from the pavilion. They’re a great audience and I don’t think we’re designing enough for them.” Salvage Swings is currently accepting donations to build the project through a Kickstarter campaign, which ends on March 23. As of today, the project is fully funded. Now that the total money has been raised, Colangelo and Sharpless will construct the pavilion for the 2019 summer season on Roosevelt Island, collaborating with Taylor and Miller Architecture and Design on lighting for the modules, as well as Guy Nordenson and Associates on their structural engineering. Come fall, Salvage Swings will likely be broken down into parts, according to Sharpless, where a section will stay in New York and another will be set up in Arkansas.
2018 Best of Design Awards winner for Unbuilt – Landscape: Greers Ferry Water Garden Designer: University of Arkansas Community Design Center Location: Heber Springs, Arkansas Developed by the University of Arkansas Community Design Center, the Greers Ferry Water Garden proposal seeks to revive Edward Durell Stone’s forgotten plan for a water garden park. Contemporaneous with his design of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the internationally renowned architect’s equally monumental park concept was set to accompany the Greers Ferry Dam in Heber Springs, Arkansas. Stone’s design deployed late modernist tropes, combining monumentality and glamour throughout. However, his schematic vocabulary left gaps on matters of terrain passage, native planting, and water as an experiential medium. The updated vision offers a new environmental model for park design. Excess runoff collected through the dam’s impoundment of the river can be harvested and strategically recycled throughout the 269-acre water garden to grow new life and create higher-order niche ecologies. Honorable Mention Project name: Murchison Rogers Park Designer: Surroundings Location: El Paso, Texas
2018 Best of Design Award winner for Unbuilt – Urban: Whitmore Community Food Hub Complex Designer: University of Arkansas Community Design Center Location: Wahiawa, Hawaii More than 93 percent of Hawaii’s food is imported. Such a fact is alarming considering that Hawaii is the most remote inhabited land mass on Earth. Local grocers have a five-day turnaround period of food sourced from global supply chains. The proposed Whitmore Community Food Hub Complex project by the University of Arkansas Community Design Center will not be a typical farmer’s market. The 34-acre complex, made from tilt-wall concrete construction, will serve the island of Oahu by introducing the agricultural infrastructure necessary for community-based food production. Integrated logistical areas will be accompanied by public spaces for the surrounding neighborhoods and for visiting tourists. The site will feature a direct link to downtown Wahiawa. Honorable Mention Project name: The Hydroelectric Canal Designer: Paul Lukez Architecture Location: Boston Honorable Mention Project name: Brooklyn Navy Yard Master Plan Designer: WXY Location: Brooklyn, New York
Emerging Voices winner modus studio has nearly completed a floating treehouse in the Garvan Woodland Gardens of their native Arkansas. The twisting timber Tree House rises between the oak and pine trees of the Evans Children’s Adventure Garden and is designed both to mimic the surrounding woods as well as to draw children back into nature. A soft opening for the Tree House this Saturday will cap several years of construction. Garvan Woodland Gardens is the University of Arkansas’s 210-acre botanical garden, and one of only eight public woodland gardens in the country. Modus is a frequent collaborator with the university, having most recently completed the transformation of the school’s sculpture studio. The Tree House is the first of three proposed for the woods, and modus took design cues from nature to create an arboreal play space that doubles as an educational station where visitors can learn about how trees grow. As visitors follow a suspended catwalk through the woods and the foliage recedes, visitors are gradually confronted with the Tree House’s mass. The curved Tree House reaches two stories at one end and tapers to a child-sized window at the other. The curvilinear plan, combined with the timber ribs that make up the tree house’s open structure, creates a biomorphic shape that references the expansion of tree rings. The screen created by the gaps in the scaffolding regulates light, creates unique vantage points for visitors at different parts of the tree house, and allows the building to further blend into the forest. The Tree House is rife with other biophilic touches. A timber staircase allows children to descend to the Root Plaza below, where they can experience the foliage from ground-level (or ascend up to the canopy from a trail). Inside, modus used their in-house fabrication shop to build a steel screen reminiscent of a decaying leaf, capping the tree house’s larger end while still allowing views out to the forest. Slices from native trees, bark, and other teaching tools inside the treehouse build on what modus calls the “theme of dendrology, the study of trees and wooded plants” to drive programming. The privately funded, $1.8 million project will hold its “soft” opening to the public this weekend as the landscaping underneath and some interior components are not fully installed yet. A full grand opening is expected for the fall. AN will update this article to include completed photos of the Tree House after its opening on June 30.
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The sculpture studio facility for the University of Arkansas, a design collaboration between Modus Studio and El Dorado Inc., is the first completed building for a new remote arts and design district for their campus. The project expands an existing pre-engineered metal building warehouse, through selective renovation and addition, into a simple, refined form. It provides natural daylight for studios inside and draws a connection to the context through the interplay of translucent and opaque materials.
The design teams at Modus Studio and El Dorado decided to keep the existing building structure and continue the original detailing. The building was stripped down to the bones and the same pre-engineered metal building profile was used to create the new addition. The project more than doubles the existing footprint of the pre-engineered warehouse on the east and, with exterior porches of structural steel on either side that allowed for a layer of customization within the otherwise standardized facade system. The material palette consists primarily of the same short-ribbed aluminum panel with variations in color and opacity. The majority of the structure is clad in solid aluminum panels with a white Kynar finish. The same panel, with a twenty-three-percent perforation, is applied at either end of the building to denote the two exterior porches. These open-air bays needed to be shaded while allowing light in the flexible spaces on the perimeter of the building. They provide a visual connection with the surrounding context and allow people to see in while passing on the street or nearby trail. Additionally, flat aluminum panels are used as a backdrop for the perforated facade at the exterior porches. The building continues the conversation of opacity and translucency into the design and detailing of the windows. Constructed with an aluminum frame, the windows use a translucent polycarbonate to filter light. The purpose of the polycarbonate is to wash the interior spaces with consistent daylight during the day and project interior light towards the exterior at night. The windows are not a part of the pre-engineered assembly and had to be detailed in a different way. The project team saw this as an opportunity to celebrate this connection and positioned the windows at the columns of the main structural frames. From the interior, this exposes the detailing of the pre-engineered system rather than hiding it. The moments where the materials meet each other were of particular significance to the design teams at Modus Studio and El Dorado. This can be seen in the way that the trim is treated around the entire building. The architects wanted the trim to always be made of the adjacent material, so that the wrapping of material continued on all surfaces without interruption. Additionally, the downspouts were located at panel joints to hide the small shadow line and continue the wrapping of the facade. Jody Verser, the project manager at Modus Studio, told AN in an interview, “In one particular area, on the northwest side of the building in the foundry, we had a concrete wall, an elevated concrete floor, a concrete slab on grade, structural steel, pre-engineered metal building frame, perforated panel, opaque panel, and a corner downspout, everything coming together at one spot.” It was a game of coordination between both project teams and the contractors to arrive at the right solution and continue that logic throughout the project.
The Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices award and lecture series highlights individuals and firms with distinct design “voices”, singling out those with the potential to go on to even greater heights. 2018 saw two rounds of judging; first by a panel of past Emerging Voices winners, and a second to pick the winners. The first-round jury included Virginia San Fratello, Sebastian Schmaling, Wonne Ickx, Lola Sheppard, Marcelo Spina, Carlos Jimenez, and Marlon Blackwell, as well as members of the second-round jury, Sunil Bald, Lisa Gray, Stella Betts, Jing Liu, Paul Makovsky, Tom Phifer, Chris Reed, and Billie Tsien. AN profiled all of the emerging voices firms in our February print issue. Modus Studio founder Chris Baribeau will deliver his lecture on March 1st, 2018, at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan. Modus Studio might have started in 2008 as a two-man operation in cofounder Chris Baribeau’s back office, but the firm’s expansion to 24 people and a full fabrication shop shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The office’s intensive focus on the surrounding Arkansas environment and their hands-on approach have drawn attention both inside and outside of the state. “A thinking–making philosophy really evolved out of our passions, from working through college, working on construction, working on fabrication,” explained Baribeau. “It set the tone for the rest of our professional work.” Modus is a frequent collaborator with the University of Arkansas and has designed for the school a pair of mass timber residence halls, an athletic area master plan, and, most recently, a sculpture studio— although the firm has realized nearly every type of project. Its single-family homes typically draw on the surrounding geographies and ecosystems to influence the final forms, as is the case with Van Huset on the Bluff, a stark cabin overlooking Beaver Lake, in northwest Arkansas. Educational work has a special place in the studio’s canon. Green Forest Middle School, Modus’s first project, was also the first school that either Baribeau or cofounder Josh Siebert had ever worked on. Having to leap into a new building typology meant engaging heavily with the community at every step of the school’s design and construction, an approach that has carried over to all of their projects afterward. Timber and sustainability are prominent through-lines in many of Modus’s built works, no matter the intended use. Working with timber allows the studio to harvest wood directly from the trees on-site, or if they’re not able to do so, connect with Arkansas’s timber industry. Even Modus’s Fayetteville office, a reclaimed warehouse clad in timber that was charred in the fabrication shop, is winning notice, as it was Arkansas’s only LEED Platinum– certified building in 2017. “We’re very connected to the natural world,” said Baribeau. “And being in the Ozarks, the language of the rugged mountains and valleys and rivers connects us to the outdoor world. We’re straddling this dynamic place that’s somewhere between the manmade and the natural world. Our buildings are about fitting into the landscape and drawing inspiration from the context around the site.” Modus views its location outside of the “major design cities” as a boon. Arkansas is in the process of rebuilding and infilling its urban centers, providing the studio an opportunity to experiment while allowing them to build their brand through projects that serve the community. While Modus has begun working on projects as far north as Illinois, Baribeau is most proud of the K–12 schools that the studio has designed for low-income, rural areas. “We’ve found, particularly in this region of Arkansas, how rural communities are really underserved in terms of good design. The hub of that community, their tax money, the local football team, all focuses around the public school. For us, the ongoing tilling of the soil is to raise the bar for rural communities."