“When circumstances defy order, order should bend or break: anomalies and uncertainties give validity to architecture.” [Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, 1966]
The studio asked first and second-year master’s students to embrace the notion of CIRCUMSTANCE –things that condition or determine another– in order to better understand how context can influence and/or determine design. The 14 students explored a “real” project in New Braunfels, TX and focused on water, fluctuating between an asset and a liability, and the corresponding ecological issues as a determinant for landscape and building form.
“The Hill Country is karst terrain, so it’s limestone that tends to erode in beautiful ways, but along with that beauty you get thin soils, hard surfaces and steep hills, and that all serves to funnel rainfall very quickly into restricted valleys.” [Robert Mace, TWDB Water Science and Conservation]
Located at the headwaters of the Comal River, the current 16-acre site is dominated by asphalt with a few warehouses, historic structures and active utilities. Bordered by the Balcones Escarpment (the beginning of the Edwards Plateau), Blieders Creek (a dry creek prone to floods), and the Comal Springs (the largest springs in Texas), the site is a unique riparian habitat that has been occupied for thousands of years. The client, New Braunfels Utilities, intends to create “a place which establishes a relationship between the community and the environment by demonstrating the regeneration and protection of water and ecological resources.”
Ecologists, environmental designers, landscape architects, and architects (those involved in the ‘real’ project) were essential to the studio and provided an immersive understanding of the project's context--site research and background, diverse knowledge sets, client parameters, and community perspectives--to convey the circumstances of the site. Forming 5 student teams, the students developed comprehensive strategies conditioned by and responsive to water, soil, plants, endangered species, artifacts and people. Uniting landscape and building, programs were developed to reconnect the community to the environment. Individually, the students ‘zoomed in’ and developed 14 buildings and the corresponding landscape.
John Hart Asher, Environmental Designer, Wildflower Center
Michelle Bertelsen, Ecologist, Wildflower Center
Adam Barbe, Landscape Architect, Wildflower Center
Dan Sharp, Landscape Architect, Ten Eyck Landscape Architects
Meredith Enthrop, Landscape Architect, Ten Eyck Landscape Architects
Matt Wallace, Associate Partner, Lake|Flato Architects
Michael Britt, Project Architect, Lake|Flato Architects