Intuitive submission from Austin, New Orleans designers wins 2017 BAA ‘Celebrate Architecture’ competition

By: CTA In The News
8 June 2017

The final submitted boards

The Billings Architecture Association’s 2017 Celebrate Architecture competition called for design entries to bring purpose to an underutilized portion of North Park in Billings, MT. The designers were challenged to develop a solution for a three-season pavilion that could serve as a landmark to the city of Billings. The jury evaluated projects based on the response to program innovations, contextual relationships, and overall appearance.

Designers from CTA Austin and CTA New Orleans partnered up to address the BAA competition. Though the challenge was rooted in a culture and climate different than their own, the team took the opportunity to provide a fresh perspective outside of their comfort zone, and to learn about a fellow CTA community. Through iterative charrettes and thoughtful usage of work-sharing tools commonly used by CTA’s Retail studio — such as Webex screen-share meetings, digital model transfers, and intensive work sessions — this dual-office team demonstrated a positive example of how interoffice design collaboration can be as effective as work completed within a single office.

The industrial qualities of the railroad and the iconic form of the Rimrocks were aspects of the initial Billings research that drove design exploration. After several iterations, the team concurred that sloped earth against a natural stone backstop was a valid response to the site and competition requirements. To push the concept further, they dove into the character of the city, investigating ways to bring locals together in underutilized territory. Contextual connections were established by exploring regional geological forms and adjacencies between active and passive outdoor park space.

With initial concerns that a tall stone form would provoke climbing, the team experienced an “a-ha moment” that the stone form should actually invite climbing. By sloping the earth, the form could provide passive viewing areas for adjacent play areas, then transition into covered pavilion space, and separate to become a bouldering wall. The forms were also designed to provide seasonal use by anticipating potential for sledding down the back of the sloped pavilion into a snow-covered field in the winter, and carving out fire pits as small gathering areas in the fall. Within two weeks of scheduled collaborations, the team had  progressed the concept in spurts of effort and refinement.

The resulting design represents a threefold mission regarding user behaviors: 1. Engage and enhance the existing adjacent activity areas in the park (ballfield and courts), 2. Provide for areas of prospect and refuge on a corner site, and 3. Establish gathering zones that vary in seasonal activity and exposure.

The final submission proposes a landmark pavilion which alludes to the larger context of Billings, MT, without explicitly mimicking its characteristics: a subtle nod to urban activity within a geological landform evoked by the pavilion’s abstracted and faceted natural stone bouldering wall. Inclusion of an informal, grassy slope bridges active and passive users in and around the park. The tactile nature of the pavilion’s form and physical materials speak to the industrial qualities of the city within a visually striking natural landscape.

Primary team members on the submittal were:

  • Sarah Holnbeck
  • Jennifer Moore
  • Freddie Dickinson
  • Corey Stidham

Design Charrette #1 (Austin)

  • 1 | Preliminary Site Plan: The street corner is designated for the “landmark” with layers of activity across the site allowing for connection to the rest of the park.
  • 2 | Site Concepts: Gathering space, pinch point, open walkway, and simple form frame the activity zones.
  • 3 | Organic form, a continuation of the earth that is already on site, gradually elevates the space and allows for various views and paths for wandering.
  • 4 | Stepped landscape with view, more controlled form, and nodes along perimeter of the site are potential landmark zones.

Design Charrette #2 (Austin)

  • 1 | Industrial vs. organic juxtaposition of materials and textures.
  • 2 | An elevated slope connects with flute-like elements to serve as a cover to the pavilion below.
  • 3 | A grass/sledding slope appears on the left, with a bouldering wall/landmark structure on the right.

Design Charrette #3 (New Orleans)

  • 1 | An open space framed by solid forms: the sloped earth and the bouldering wall, with the intervention of designated fire pits and seating.
  • 2 | Sloped earth becomes an overhead element protecting the open space, with the bouldering wall acting as both a backstop and landmark piece against the street front.

Design Charrette #4 (Austin + New Orleans)

  • 1 | Developing the form of the sloped earth.
  • 2 | Developing the sloped earth in relation to connector pieces, landscape elements, and the adjacent bouldering wall.
  • 3 | Exploring the relationship between the sloped earth language and the bouldering wall. Sketches show possibilities for a landmark in between the two or the void allowing the structures themselves to make the statement.
  • 4 | Final iteration before going into production mode. This begins to resolve the sloped earth form (pink), the connector pieces and bouldering wall (yellow/red) and how they interact with each other with the incorporation of a fire element (blue).
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