Arch 322 is a coordinated undergraduate studio that focuses on the social and physical contexts in which we build, and how outdoor spaces can relate to and influence the design of architectural forms. The semester includes three skill building exercises and culminates with the development of design proposals for a community and/or competitive boathouse housing a variety of rowing sculls and sweeps. In the first three exercises, students develop fluency in reading topography and proposing sensitive alterations to existing conditions, strengthen their understanding of scale by collectively translating a scale image of an 8-person rowing shell into a 1:1 “blue tape” drawing, and expand their understanding of programmatic, spatial, and material opportunities by carefully analyzing case study projects. The studio includes guest visits by a local rowing coach to describe the importance that architecture plays in facilitating training regimens and team building. Prior to moving to remote learning platforms triggered by COVID-19, the studio visited a recently constructed boathouse in the region to engage with the specialized equipment and better understand the constraints driven by transporting rowing shells from the boathouse to the river and back.
The culminating project asked students to select one of two sites along the Huron River in southeast Michigan and develop a boathouse proposal that could integrate their own interests in either elevating the public education and youth awareness programs in the region or to focus more specifically on the needs of the competitive racing community.
Haley Mayes – “Threshold”
Threshold responds to a prompt to design a boathouse to service the specific needs of rowing teams. Situated within Ypsilanti’s Ford Lake Park, this project seeks to bring visitors across different layers of threshold as they navigate from the entrance on the upper floor, to the bathrooms and changing areas, to the boat storage area where the delicate, carbon fiber shells are kept dry and organized. Inhabitants enter near the compressed inner space of the bathrooms, continuing out into the light of the upper deck, and turning back into the depths of the boat storage. The layers of construction signify the different thresholds from the light tectonic to the hefty stereotomic. Crossing them, one circumnavigates unprogrammed spaces that can be flexible for erg machine workouts or community classes.
The architecture has the capacity to host regattas, the main event where rowing teams congregate to compete in kilometer-long races, but is also intended for recreational paddlers and community groups to enjoy Ford Lake. The dock on the north side of the little peninsula that the architecture is situated on is a separate space for loading rowing shells into the water, a process that is a team effort itself. Following the shoreline to the southwest, the dock expands to accommodate kayakers, strollers, spectators, and even swimmers with a protected swimming area.
Rachel Skof – “Second Ground”
Situated on the Huron River, the Second Ground boathouse celebrates the artifact of the elegant yet powerful rowing shell. It seeks to both protect and exhibit their delicacy by forming an elevated ground which serves as the central circulatory ramp from the exterior path to an interior courtyard. The storage of each rowing shell is suspended in air by the extension of the building’s structural system to the ground and given a direct line to the river’s dock. The circulatory ramp is also seen as an extension of the building’s structure, creating a feeling of elevation and suspension as you walk on this second ground. Visitors who stroll though are given a view of the rowing shells slipping underneath them as they make their way to the river while also being privy to the elevated views of the rich nature that surrounds them.