By Bella Chou
ARCHITECTURE vertical studio | murray legge
Friesenhahn Cave, once home to scimitar-toothed cats (homotherium) as well as a plethora of other Pleistocene Epoch megafauna, is an important paleontological site located in the midst of San Antonio’s suburban sprawl. The objective of the studio was to design an educational building within the four-acre site that did not encroach upon the 60-foot radius of the special preservation zone. The forestation of the site created enclosure and reveal for both the cave and juxtaposing suburbia surrounding it, determined by movement through the site. In my circulation diagrams, my initial path consisted of a series of sharp angles with offset walls acting as a turning device. From there, I explored origami-like folds in the walls to encourage movement into the space through fragmentation. The folding language of each iteration explores the relationship of mystery, reveal, and views. The folds imply a sense of lightness even as they provide rigidity to the structure; these light folding geometries further juxtapose against the solidity of black concrete. The building is divided into three sections, with the offices, bathrooms, and storage located to the left, where the space is compressed and relatively closed off. To the right is the exhibition space and the gathering space, with the clerestory window providing light to draw people into the space. The large opening provides a direct view into the special preservation zone of the old and new entrance to the cave. The folding structure is meant to guide movement—a suggestion of direction—but visitors are ultimately allowed to explore the site at will.