Environmental Exploration Center
Clyde York 4-H Camp | Crossville, TN
Third Year Project
Fall 2014 | Professor Scott Wall
The Observation Tower builds upon the idea of sculpture and discovery on the site. The structure does not look explicitly like a building, one is required to wander up to it and investigate to learn of its purposes. This is a space for individual reflection, and it is meant to enhance ones awareness of the conditions of lightness, darkness, weather, and time.
The field acts as a threshold between the communal studio spaces to the quiet
Observation Tower. Visitors pass through the field, and arrive at a forty-eight foot tall tower that serves as an instrument on the site.
The tower has gutters carved into its exterior that direct rain into underground water cisterns, which can later be used to irrigate the surrounding field. The gutters are made of polished stone, while the rest of the exterior is rough stone. Over time, rain will wash debris down the gutters causing a gradual change in the tower’s aesthetic.
There is also an oculus in the tower, which draws one’s eye up to focus on the happenings of the sky.
Furthermore, the Observation Tower addresses issues of wind. There are operable blinds 9 feet from ground level, situated to where they allow the strongest currents of fall and spring wind to pass through. About forty feet up from the ground, there are cut-outs that allow the strongest currents of winter wind to pass through. Installations such as chimes or string can be hung from the top of the tower so that the wind creates noise or motion. It is seen or heard, rather than felt. Additionally, the tower serves as a sundial, creating shadows across the field that change throughout the course of the day.
The studio spaces on this site will juxtapose the free-form natural topography by being very linear and orthagonal in form. Each classroom and studio will be a separate structure due to the fact that each element of program (woodworking, pottery, recycled art, and photography) requires very specific equipment.These will exist as functional sculptural elements, and placement, pattern, and repitition will be key.
These studios are placed on a circular grid, rotating around the Observation Tower. Each studio has views of the Observation Tower and the crop field surrounding it. Students will be able to observe cycles of change in the crop field, and let it inspire their artistic works.
The use of shifting rectangles, and the juxtaposition of linear geometric buildings in the free form landscape are elements that carried over from this precedent into the design for the studios. Furthermore, the design goal of the Environmental Education Center is the utilization of the outdoors as a classroom, so the line between the indoors and outdoors is highly blurred. The built studio spaces keep a low profile on the site, located at the forest’s edge. They are modest structures, primarily designed to shelter equipment.