This page communicates a semester of study 'outside' of the city. To give a grounding in ecological literacy and sustainable design, students are challenged to do a 'landscape observatory.' They must create a design that reveals an ecological process, and model a twenty-four hour experience that includes sleeping, eating and bathing.
By looking at painting, students in the fourth year of landscape architecture and architecture become attuned to light and the beauty of moments. This opens up for them the idea that design can become background. It also heightens their perceptions, and shows them the power of position and moment that often eludes designers as a critical aspect of design.
Students then take several field trips to their sites to discover the places, and do scientific research to understand geomorphology, soils, climate and flora and fauna. After this foundation sets, student pick a process they feel defines their landscape. Then then model the process and the phenologies to see how elements work in time as well as space.
Precedents studies show students how design may be used to reveal processes. The combination of painting, scientific research, site visits, precedents studies, analysis and design modeled in scenarios of process and perception gives students a comprehensive study in ecological literacy and design.
Our studio typically does three to four sites per semester to give students an exposure to an array of landscapes. A few hours away from Red Rocks State Park, another group looked at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Park. It has some of the darkest skies in the Southwest. Dan Valenza's design was a 'moon observatory.' He used trips and Google Earth to find a point to marry the moon cycles and the landscapes. The moon will rise and set at distinct points viewers can notice. He faced a severe challenge with his remote location. How does one sleep, eat and bathe/use the restroom without any infrastructure? Dan's solution involved placing a prefab building at the base of the mountain where the observatory was located. The station on top of the mountain was built from rock fragments up there. (image is a gallery, click images to put into lightbox.)
Heather Frost's observatory in Saguaro National Park addresses the distinguishing feature of the Sonoran Desert. It is the only desert with two rainy seasons, giving it is unique 'desert lush' appearance. She creates sky observation stations through Andy Goldsworthy type cuts into rocks. A delicate move in a sensitive landscape. Storms of different types form in different ways, and come from different directions in the summer and winter. She has a station for each, and also has a 'camera obscura' home station for sleeping, eating and bathing. A pin hole towards the sky of a buried structure casts an image of the sky on a limpid pool of water. Users can bathe in the sky. (gallery images, click each one tosee larger.)