Notes From the Field Station: Student Involvement in MacLeish Site Design

22 Dec

This past semester two Smith classes, Jim Middlebrook’s advanced architecture studio and Reid Bertone-Johnson’s LSS studio “Landscape and Narrative”, have undertaken several design projects at the MacLeish Field Station.

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Middlebrook’s students, Lara Hamsher, Yura Kim, and Katie Wisniewski, first researched aspects of the Living Building Challenge in order to create interpretational signage for the challenge imperative of biophilia, focusing on reuse (LaraYura, and Katie). The students created miniature mock-ups of their signs for evaluation, and Professor Middlebrook plans to construct the signs at the Center for Design and Fabrication over J-term. CEEDS is helping to support this effort by financing the purchase of the materials necessary to construct the three signs, which will be displayed within the building upon its completion.

Additionally, students were given three weeks to design inexpensive, light wood-framed structures to serve as auxiliary 3-4 season gathering spaces. Structures were at max 300 sq. ft. and completely off the gird. These projects allowed students to explore some of the aspects of salvage, reuse, and biophilic design farther than was practical in the new building. The first design, playfully coined “Nature’s Garage” would serve as a gathering space, garden potting shed, and collect rainwater for irrigation. Another design proposed a biological observatory and multi-use space linking together two disparate habitats, the forest and the field. The structure also contains a yoga or dance studio and seating area. A third design also aimed to provide a space for a biological observatory; its elevated location at the top of a steep slope and multi-story design allow access to another layer of field station habitat.Throughout the design process students were able to meet with the project’s architect, Bruce Coldham, via office visits and skype-facilitatied discussions during studio time.

The “Landscape and Narrative” Landscape Studies studio cumaltively produced three proposals for different areas of the field station. Students Jen Krain, Xayida Troche, and Emil Evans designed aspects of a gathering space near the newly installed porch swing, featuring a curved bench to capture the best views of the valley, a fire pit and seating area in the tobacco barn foundation, and an interactive sundial.

Another group, consisting of students Sophie Geller, Gayelan Tietje-Ulrich, Mila Devenport, Twyla Marr, and Catherine Ruggiero, divided and conquered the design of trail to lead from the parking area to the new building. Students individually addressed the entrance experience, the bridge over the brook, the seating area overlooking the pasture, the linear portion of the path parallel to the pasture’s edge, and the arrival at the building. The trail design was well received and will be constructed this coming summer. An Engineering special studies is being organized to take on the task of designing a solar, LED lighting system for along the trail. The third group, including student Jennifer Kaplan, crafted a highly abstract environmental art installation for another region of the field station.

Throughout the semester, Landscape Architect Harry Dodson met with LSS students in studio and on-site, providing valuable feedback and critique during the design process. Smith is excited to have found a design team so enthusiastic about student involvement.

I hope everyone has a great holiday, more to come about the BEC in the New Year!

Jessa Finch (’12)

CEEDS MacLeish Intern

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