Advancing the Education of Young Architecture Graduates through Foreign Travel-Study
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Meandering Knowledge

by Zachary Morgan — Finalist

Title BoardSite OrganizationThe Module, Phasing, Design ProcessImages

The Bolsa Chica Wetlands visitor’s center will become a staple of the ecological habitat of the Huntington Beach community and a destination for all who want to learn and discover. It will serve to educate children and adults about the flora, fauna, history, and most importantly wildlife that thrive in this wetland, while simultaneously allowing them to experience and discover for themselves. The exhibition becomes the experience as well. The design is built around the concept that it is a static program centered on the perceptions of movement, both in people and wildlife. From this, the site was divided into axes. First are the axes of site access. On one end is vehicular access and on the other end is pedestrian access. Perpendicular to these axes is the path of travel. This became the basis for the movement within the proposed project. On either end of this main axis, where it meets the axes of access became (respective of their necessary adjacency) the points of meeting, shopping, back of house, contemplating, viewing, dining, the most static aspects of the program. The next axis is the Pacific Flyway axis which became the exhibition and it follows a north to south path. The reason the exhibition is split into three corridors is because this way people can learn and then let it soak in while they travel perpendicularly along the axis of research. This axis is very important and is a counter part to the axis of the exhibition because along this path one has the opportunity to experience what they have just read about and learned in the exhibition. Whether it is looking through a glass floor at the wildlife below, or looking through a telescope at a Great Blue Heron one can discover and put into application, the knowledge they have just gained. There are three of these transitions along the path and each one has a unique aspect to it following the axis of research. The result of these two axes interacting in this way was a meandering path which allows people to fully experience and enjoy the wetlands and all that it has to offer. The meandering path terminates in an amazing 180 degree view of the nesting grounds.
Most of the project is made out of environmentally safe and sustainable Oriented Strand Board or recycled wood from nearby or from the bridge which will be dismantled to construct the new center. Most of the wood has been used to create a floor system and lightweight skin system which would serve as a shading and enclosure for the exhibition. It is light enough however to not cast much more shadow on the habitat than the existing bridge does. The form of it follows the movement of the water and the movement of people through flowing forms that seem to guide you along the exhibits and have breaks at the end of each module to let southern light in. The module would be prefabricated in a factory and then assembled on site to minimize long term harm to the habitat and because of this process would only touch the ground at 22 points (spanning 40 feet). At the end of every exhibit space is a small reflection space that is a glass dead. It frames a view North to the nesting grounds or South to the ocean.
There is an intrinsic conflict when building a building like this in an ecological preserve so rather than build against the natural landscape, the building will become a part of the ecological infrastructure. The back wall of the Community room will become a recycled 2 x 4 grid of varying spacing to create a large nesting wall for many different birds. It will be away from people but will be able to be viewed by all along the path.
Ultimately, the Bolsa Chica Vistor Learning Center is an interactive experience of both learning and application and is designed for people to have a fulfilling experience of nature every time they visit.

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