Fall 2016  |  Goose Island State Park  |  Lamar Peninsula Texas

Project Team: Eric Alexander, Sara Bensalem, Mitch Flora, Hannah Frossard, James Holliday, Hannah Ivancie, Josh Leger, Max Mahaffey, Ola Olakunie, Qianhui Miao (Vonn), Michelle Sifre, Sebastian Rojas Sonderegger, Neive Tierney

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This project is the third at  Goose Island State Park for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The park is eight miles north of Fulton, Texas on St Charles  Bay where Copano and Aransas Bay converge. The Park is one of the ten most-visited in the state and is known for its winter bird watching, especially the highly-endangered Whooping Crane. The park is unique with its thick  live oak. particularly the fact that it is home to the thousand-year-old “Big Tree,” one of the nation’s largest live oaks.

Goose Island State Park’s new wetland observation platform for environmental engagement and bird watching overlooks a coastal marshland notable for attracting migratory birds. The sensitive thirty-acre habitat emptying into the St. Charles Bay was recently given to the park by the Corp of Engineers to manage—in exchange for concessions to a new nearby residential development.

During the winter season many migratory birds visit the wetland, especially Sandhill and Whooping Cranes that come there to feed on blue crab, which are plentiful during high tide. Views to this new area are not easily accessible because of a slough and wetland scrub, which separate it from a small native-grass meadow bordering a parking lot. To gain views to the wetland, the park authorities asked Gulf Coast DesignLab students to present their ideas for a raised observation area that would serve the park’s environmental educator—a place for her to talk about stewarding wetland habitats and the local bay systems. It would also provide a new viewing platform for birders who migrate to the park each winter.

The six-foot high observation deck had to be wheelchair accessible, which required a seventy-foot ramp. Responding to the native grass meadow as distinct from the wetland, students developed a one-hundred-foot long screen-wall that incorporated narrow vertical slots, making the wall opaque at times or opening up a bit, depending on one’s viewpoint when walking toward the viewing platform. The wall partially shields the platform/ramp as it provides a backdrop for the native grasses, important for the health of the local ecology which the environmental educator plans to discuss. Passing through the entry portal, the wetland partially comes into view and opens up as the visitor moves up toward the observation area.

The advanced design studio was coupled with a seminar that challenged students to consider their ethical role as designers—and citizens—regarding global warming and its impact of the Texas gulf coast. Acting on this through their design/build project, part of their mission was finding ways to encourage environmental stewardship through a greater appreciation of the local landscape. Over the fifteen-week semester the project was designed, partially fabricated on campus and then fully installed on site.

Arch Daily awarded this project The Best Student Design-Build Projects Worldwide, 2017

The American Society of Landscape Architects recognized this project with a national “Student Collaboration” award, 2017

The American Institute of Architects, Ft. Worth chapter recognized this project with a Student Design award, 2017

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