Text description provided by the architects. Initial site visits at the University of Idaho Pitkin Nursery revealed hoop houses, metal sheds and stacks of planter boxes. Beginning with the idea of a wood box floating on the undulating sea of the Palouse, the design team set out to stitch together the program, landscape and the materiality of Idaho forest products. The college wanted to extend their public outreach in addition to nursery research functions.
The outstretched ramps and decks reach out to the landscape and invite the public and students to the building. The Sales Office was pulled through the wood screen as a way to express itself beyond the functions of classroom, offices, and social gathering. The weathering cedar wood screen that stands off the building was imagined as a modern western storefront. The repetition of stacked boxes was intriguing; we saw that as the piece that expressed the transition from working nursery to classroom. The cedar wood screen is the threshold element for faculty and students to step through the gap between the two elements; wood screen and black box.
Working in collaboration with Idaho wood industry partners that make and develop products such as dimensional framing lumber, cedar siding, engineered I-joists and glu-lam beams, the design team wanted to express those material attributes throughout. Every stick of lumber, every leaf of veneer came from a median distance of 59 miles from the project site. Meeting and working with industry professionals and craftsmen gave us firsthand knowledge of each products properties which informed the best location and presentation for those products.
The success of this unique project required extending the studio approach to all team members including industry partners, university staff, and alumni craftsmen. Donated materials consisted entirely of the Idaho forest products.
Design revisions and new approaches were made during documentation and construction to adapt to what materials were available. A constant dialogue defined a different type of integrated design; each result better for the process.