08-03-15

CUDC Alumni ‘Branch Out’ at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens

The Cleveland Botanical Garden has a special exhibit on display called Branch Out. They invite you to explore a series of magical, interactive tree houses throughout the garden. Its a chance for kids (and adults) to put away technology and let their imagination run wild. Each tree house explores a theme connected to learning and fun including art, music, reading, math and play.

The tree houses were designed by local architects several of whom are CUDC alums. Two Teams of CUDC alums participated ThenDesign Architecture who built Jack and the Giant Pulpit and Sap +Iron Design|Build who built Acoustic Canopy and Seasons.

The team from ThenDesign Architecture included CUDC alums Wade Kratzer, Mia Katz, Claire Markwardt, Steve Bell, and Scott Alleman. Jeff Henderson of Ohio State University and Ed Parker of Kent State University were also on the team. We spoke with the team about their design,  Jack in the Giant Pulpit. Here is what they had to say about their design process and working with the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.

“We surround ourselves with design; it is our livelihood. All of us find ourselves in nature whether it’s exploring on our own, or designing within, so when the Cleveland Botanical Gardens released a Competition to design a Treehouse, it was something that we could not pass up. It combined the opportunity to design with nature in the most literal way. During the competition process, we challenged ourselves to understand what a treehouse was and what a treehouse could be. Is it a shelter? Is it a private getaway? Is it a platform to overlook nature? Could it be all of these and more?

Our love of nature skewed us to think of what nature is. How big in reality it is compared to humans and how our imagination always leads us to get lost within it. We began thinking of folk-lore and Science-Fiction and other childhood tall tales that involved nature. This led us to expand upon the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk, giving us the opportunity to work a Giant Jack in the Pulpit into the story, so that adults and children alike could have the opportunity to participate in the tale.”

branchout

The team from Sap + Iron Design|Build  consisted current and former CUDC students including Mykie Hrusovski, Alan Hipps, Jessie Hawkins, Adrian Marti, and Charles Fredrick who is an Assistant Professor and Interim Director of the Master of Landscape Architecture Program. Of the five projects that ultimately got selected for construction via a juried competition, two of their submissions were accepted. Of note, the jury was headed by Pete Nelson, the Tree House Master!
seasons_sm

The houses each have a particular theme, Acoustic Canopy being a tree house that has built-in, bespoke musical instruments that encourages children to make and discover noises within the tree canopy, and Seasons being a small outdoor reading room for children. Both houses have a lot of custom details and features that were either planned from the beginning, or evolved as the project progressed. Another important note to emphasize is that Sap + Iron’s contractor was unable to commit to the project as it was beginning, so their team ended up constructing, rigging and installing everything by themselves.

acoustic canopy

Interesting facts:

  • The Acoustic Canopy project weighs well over 2.5 tons, and was lifted manually by only four people over the course of 2 days.
  • The tree that supports it is a Dawn Redwood which is a species thought to have gone extinct many millions of years ago, but was rediscovered and introduced to the U.S. only about 50 years ago as seeds and saplings. It’s already about 160′ tall.
  •  The Seasons Reading Room’s exterior is wrapped in Western Red Cedar that was hand-charred with a torch. This gives it its iridescent black color which serves a couple of purposes; a pleasing aesthetic, weather protection, rot resistance and insect repellency, (bugs don’t enjoy the taste of burnt wood).

We’re pleased to see our students working on such creative endeavors. The tree houses will be on display from now until August 23rd. Go out and explore the tree houses today!

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