Fall 2015  |  Goose Island State Park  |  Lamar Peninsula Texas

Project Team: Kristen Ericson, Kamree Gonzales, Ashley Harris, Sean Kennaugh, Drew McMillian, Cory Olsen, Denis, Piereschi, Cristopher Salazar, Dominic Sargeant, Stuart Yancey

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This project completes the work in the Youth Area of Goose Island State Park that was begun with Gather (see project descriptions). Goose Island is eight miles north of Fulton, Texas on the Gulf coast and sits on the eastern edge of Aransas Bay where Copano and St Charles Bay converge. The Park, one of the ten most-visited in the state, known for its winter bird watching (especially the highly-endangered Whooping Crane) is thick with coastal live oak. It’s home to the thousand-year-old “Big Tree,” one of the nation’s largest live oaks.

As a way to better understand the area in which they worked, students began their semester’s studies by researching coastal live oak communities along the Gulf Coast. Biologist and the Natural Resource Coordinator from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department provided hands-on talks and kayaking for the students to gain a firsthand understanding of the local ecology. With an emphasis on the coastal live oaks community, students learned that this part of the Gulf is about as far south as coastal live oaks extend and that they provide a rich habitat of food and shade for local insect, bird and wildlife populations. Students also learned that the coastal live oak community has increased over the past two hundred years because people have prevented the natural fire cycle brought about by lightening and other natural causes. Eliminating the fire cycle adds fuel that can quickly burn, threatening coastal residents around the park. Students took this into account when designing their project.

To complete what had been started with Gather, the Park’s superintendent asked that a pavilion be built south of that project. The new work was to serve two purposes. First, as an added venue for the Park’s Nature Interpreter—a shaded seating area was needed where she could conduct her orientation talks for visitors. These would highlight the Park’s natural qualities before leading campers on walks to learn about and identify plant and wildlife. And second, it would be used by the many Boy and Girl Scout troops that frequent the park. With this in mind, there is seating for twenty-four at the pavilion’s extended dining table with a serving counter at the west end.

The overhead shade canopy is supported on steel columns that rest on four concrete grade beams to make a level base for the dining tables. These concrete fingers extend south under the trees and end in four concrete benches. This “Tree Room” connects the canopy of the pavilion back to the natural live oak canopy of the park to form an uninterrupted shade area.

Along the north and west sides of the covered space, steel screens provide a sense of enclosure. Six layers of 6 x 6 : 10 / 10 welded wire mesh, typically used in concrete slab reinforcement, are spot welded together and form a seven-inch thick screen. The west screen, which separates the seating area from the parking lot, will eventually be covered with native plants found in the park—Mustang Grape, local Trumpeter Vine and American Beauty Berry—meant to attract birds and insects. The nature interpreter will use these to help describe the park’s flora before she begins her walks. So, that the covered area not become too closed off from the Youth Area, the north elevation screen will remain open to provide connection toward the shellcrete fire circle, star-gazing platform and camping areas.

Using Sho Sugi Ban (a traditional Japanese way of burning the surface of wood) the 2 x 2 cedar ceiling of the pavilion was charred and then rubbed down for a rich ebony color. While Sho Sugi Ban helps prevent insect infestation, this treatment will be used as another teaching tool for the park’s nature interpreter to talk about the coastal live oak community and the need for periodic natural fire in maintaining long-term environmental health. The ebony color of the overhead cedar planks will blend with the steel beams, columns and screens once they naturally rust.

Three eight-foot long dining tables, designed using 2 x 4 cedar and custom steel frames, can be moved out into the open area on the north side of the pavilion for larger public events. Rainwater from the roof is collected in an oyster shell filled trough at the pavilion entry. The furrow collects the rainwater and connects the pavilion to the oyster shell gabion wall aligned to the east.

The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture recognized this project with a Design Excellence Award for 2015-2016