Professor: Coleman Coker, Ruth Carter Stevenson Regents Chair
Studio: Charles Bechendorf, Kuan-Ying Chiu, Luke Kvasnicka, Li Xinmei, Eric Mattson, Daniel Montalvo, Adolfo Moreno, Sara Ramirez, Joel Sterling, Alison Walwoord, Amy Witte
Client: Camp Aranzazu (Red Fish Point on Copano Bay - Fulton, TX)
Duration: Design, 5 weeks, Build, 5 weeks, 12 days on site
Each summer the Gulf Coast DesignLab hosts the summer Public Interest Design studio at the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture. In partnership with community stakeholder Camp Aranzazu, a nonprofit camp that hosts children and adults with special needs and chronic/terminal illnesses for one week of therapeutic, outdoor activities, the studio designed and constructed a bird blind (Hide).
Working closely with seasoned birders who specialize in youth education, students learned that providing an open, shaded area (rather than a solid wall) that would allow southeasterly winds to cool the structure during the hottest summer months was the most important design parameter. The design developed around the idea of a huge Venetian-blind on the north and south sides to block sunlight but let winds blow freely through.
In addition to meeting traditional site-specific constraints, the design accommodates six campers using wheelchairs, seven able-bodied campers, and multiple activity leaders. The viewport is at seated height to encourage young, enthusiastic campers (novice birders) to slow down as they bird watch. Imprints of birds commonly seen from Hide are cast in the concrete ledge, which is deep and high enough to allow campers in wheelchairs to write, sketch, or rest their elbows while looking through binoculars.
Placed in a sensitive wetland just yards from Copano bay, Hide incorporates a palette of materials that will naturally weather, including wood, steel, and concrete. Eight steel frames support the seven bays of wood panel floor and roof systems, which are pulled back to reveal their material difference. From a distance, the horizontal wood slats virtually disappear against the adjacent brush line separating the blind from the bay. The westernmost bay of Hide is open, providing unobstructed views of the wetlands as well as a place to view birds in flight, and maybe, simply, a quiet spot to enjoy sunsets and stargazing.