Monday, October 14, 2013


     The materials and finishes specified for the first floor of the Camp Activity Center must have sustainable features as well as functioning beautifully.  Growing awareness of green design and the desire for properties to achieve LEED ratings has meant that more products are being produced with sustainable features, yet finding the right material can still present a considerable challenge.

     The most obvious feature in the Activity Center is the use of whole tree architecture.  This form was adapted in America by Roald Gunderson and utilizes full-form trees that have often been reclaimed from urban areas, parks,  or national forests.  The technique qualifies for LEED credits in materials and resources, rapidly renewable sources, regional materials, and certified wood.

The Lipse Stackable Chair from Davis Furniture has selected for its clean, modern lines and the fact that it is Indoor Advantage Gold Certified for its low VOC finishes.

The Wheelchair Accessible Butcher Block Table by Hausmann  also earns the Indoor Advantage Gold Certification for its low VOC finish and features a hank crank to adjust its height.  The thick natural maple top can hold more than 300 pounds.

  The floors of the Activity Center are extremely important because they must not only be easy to maintain under heavy traffic, but also serve as way finding tools for the visually impaired campers.
Armstrong Commercial Natural Linoleum with Naturcote was selected  in two contrasting colors for its durability and its unique sustainable features.   The material is naturally sustainable and 100% USDA Certified Biobased.  It is also 35% pre-consumer recycled content and 36% rapidly renewal materials.  The Naturcote finish is low VOC.

     An interesting fact about this flooring is that it is produced
from an original linoleum formula developed in 1909.  It contains linseed oil, wood powder, and jute backing.  It is amazing to realize that a product more than 100 years old has surged to the forefront of modern sustainable design.  It proves that technology must sometimes look back to move forward!      
Flooring also plays a major part in the design of the raised stage
and prop room.  Natural bamboo planking from EcoTimber was selected because it is sustainablely  produced and is finished with low VOC varnishes.  Its light color provides a good contrast from the darker linoleum and makes it easier for vision-impaired campers to see the edge of the stage.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Camp Activity Center First Floor

     The floor plan for the first level of the Camp Activity Center is now complete and the concept is beginning to take shape.  When you enter the front door, the first things that you will notice are the trees.  Eight real tree trunks, complete with natural branches encircle the large open activity area, leading the eye toward a great Douglas Fir that rises majestically up through an opening into the second floor.   Contrasting way-finding paths lead from the door down both sides of the building, guiding campers to their destinations. Way-finding symbols and Braille labels are found on the trees as well to aid vision impaired campers as they navigate the large open spaces where canes may not be helpful.  On the right is the nurse's office, located close to the front door for easy access.  Two barrier-free bathrooms are next to the office, easily reached by campers in the activity area.  On the left hand side, a raised barrier-free stage framed by whole trees and equipped with wheelchair ramp faces the activity area.  A prop room with dressing and makeup areas  joins the stage and continues down the side of the building.   
    The center of Activity Center has tables and seating for thirty campers, including two tables that are wheelchair accessible.  The space is open to allow for a wide range of activities and projects.  The tables encircle the Great Tree, which inspires the creative spirit.  Storage bins for each camper are located on the back wall and a storage cabinet with a sink is positioned on the left wall for quick clean-ups.  The activity area has  easy access to the back door and an elevator to the second floor.  In all, the first floor provides a safe, comfortable environment for children of all abilities to express themselves.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Camp Activity Center Concept Statement

Work has begun in ernest on the concept statements for the Camp Activity Center.  A concept statement is not always easy to define, yet it is the foundation on which a project is built.  We began by brainstorming and creating a mood board to help refine our feeling about this project.  The mood board is a collage of pictures, colors, and textures that express our emotions regarding the Activity Center and its goals.

 The camp name "Awerika" is the Iroquois word for their nation, meaning literally "We Are Here in Unity".  The camp will stress the unity of the campers with each other and the greater world, regardless of their disabilities.  

 The concept will incorporate design principals and elements and such as rhythm, variety, shape, scale, and texture as it is expressed in organic materials.  The result will be uplifting and positive, designed to display the marvel of the natural world while revealing the inner strength that lives in us all.

Field Trip to Montpelier and Monticello

     An added treat to enhance our studies in historic preservation was an over-night field trip on October 10-11 2013 to the presidential residences of Montpelier and Monticello, both located near Charlottesville, Virginia.  This was our first overnight class trip and everyone was excited to experience these famous historic sites as well as the fine dining and shopping of Charlottesville.  Many historic sites operated by the national Parks Service were closed due to the government shutdown, but luckily, neither Montpelier nor Monticello were effected.  I was unable to go with the class at the last minute, but I was with the group in spirit!

     Montpelier, the home of James and Dolley Madison, was the first stop on the excursion.  The class toured the ca. 1797 Greek Revival mansion, getting a personal look at the period furnishing and architectural details of the drawing room, dining room, library, and bedchamber.  Dolley Madison had a strong local connection to our group, as she was a native of Guilford County, North Carolina.  She and James Madison entertained hundreds of guests sat Montpelier in the years following his second term as president.  Financial problems led to Dolley Madison selling the mansion and plantation in 1844, and an ongoing effort continues to locate and acquire as many of the original furnishings as possible.

     Thomas Jefferson's legendary home Monticello is much more familiar to the average American than Montpelier.  The mansion's exquisite architecture, designed by Jefferson himself, places it among the most famous of American structures.  The west front view with its commanding octagonal dome is prominently featured on the back of the nickel, with Jefferson himself on the front.  Touring this amazing residence gives insight into the true genius of  Thomas Jefferson, as the rooms are filled with his numerous inventions and experiments.
The interiors of Monticello radiate with an ingenuity that goes far beyond the standard architectural features of their time, showing a bold hand with form and color.

                            The incredible play of light and shadow in the dome room.

     In all, the experience of visiting Montpelier  and Monticello exemplifies the very best in historic preservation and shows the importance of continuing to identify and protect structures that demonstrate the best design characteristics of their time periods.  At various times throughout their long history, both Montpelier and Monticello have faced uncertain futures.  Thankfully, concerned people were there to protect these irreplaceable parts of American history.