Gomes + Staub Architects / The University of Texas at Austin

From the Jury:

It’s one of these typical projects where it’s an absolute reduction of means, absolute minimum of means, but you can still create a sort of marker in a landscape. Especially for a project that deals with wildflowers, something so ethereal and not permanent, it’s a very strong way to kind of define a place into the space.

Located on the grounds of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, the Wildflower Center Outdoor Classroom is a shade structure which serves as a landmark and shelter for visitors interested in the ecological research programs of the Center. Because research on the ecosystem impact of prescribed fire regimes involves burn plots surrounding the project site, the structure is designed of non-combustible and low-maintenance materials.

The project envisions a rectangle in the gently sloping landscape, framing an existing tree and linking to existing trails in the area. Four cambered concrete double tees topped with a pollen-colored mineral silicate coating rest over a boomerang of natural stone pavement and benches, providing shade and a place to sit for visitors. Corten steel toothpick struts support the canopy, their profile and shadows playing against the broad surfaces of concrete and stone that frame the ground and sky.

The Outdoor Classroom is a natural expansion of the Wildflower Center’s vision to serve the state and nation through education and research programs promoting sustainable landscapes.

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