Monday, August 13, 2012

Material Process Product - The Intern Effect

Part one of a two-part series on summer interns at Spillman Farmer Architects.

Unlike most apprentice programs in other design firms, Spillman Farmer Architects' intern development program nurtures and values thought, while immersing our apprentices into our process of making buildings. Much like their education, our design process starts out as series of abstract and clear diagrams. The final diagram becomes the framework from which all design decisions are made.

Here, you will see a window into our process through the eyes of intern Dan Silberman. Dan recently shared one of his SFA experiences while working on the Visitor's Center for the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary - an incredible 2600 acre setting for one of the world's first refuges for birds of prey.  Dan's thoughts on his experience follow below, this was his first internship at Spillman Farmer Architects and he's returning to his studies at the University of Philadelphia this fall.  His contributions this summer were greatly appreciated by the studio and our clients.

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is currently updating their master plan with the help of Spillman. The new visitor center is a major component of this master planning process, as it proposes new program space and improved wayfinding. The approach was focused on embracing the sanctuary’s uniquely sacred character that results from its isolation in the forest, its small vernacular structures, and its trail, which winds between layers of historic structures and geography.

A series of studies led to an approach of dispersing the program along the trail. This references the splitting of boulders by ice that formed Hawk Mountain. It also creates an experience that is revealed to visitors in fragments as they weave through the program. It allows the construction to occur in phases. And, it splits the architecture into small-scale structures characteristic of the sanctuary.

Further studies arrived at a scheme that ran the trail through the existing Visitors Center and extruded the new program in pieces along the extended geometry of the existing building. The extension of the east/west axis allowed for passive solar strategies on the architecture’s south face. Also by referencing the form of the existing building, its existence will be inscribed in the geometry of the new structure and one day its own ruins along the trail, building yet another layer of the sanctuary’s history. Lastly, a tall hearth was implemented to create a gathering area for the groups of visitor’s and guide those along the trail while allowing the architecture to keep its burrowed presence in the landscape.

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