Structural Engineer: IA Lewin PE and Associates
Competition Team : Jared Wierman, Carla Chang, Kyle Heflin, Kyle May, Kelley Reed, Ethan Werkmeister, Juan Alvarez
Installation Team: Kurt Weaver – Project Manager, David Purpera, Schirmer Construction
Text description provided by the architects. Reflects is a winner of an architect-led design build competition for a temporary "treehouse" structure that became a centerpiece of the Cleveland Botanical Garden's 2015 summer show. The brief called for an innovative treehouse design that reconnected guests of all ages to the outdoors through interactive experiences that reveal the physical, emotional, and developmental benefits of staying engaged with outdoor environments. The chosen site was the Secret Garden, a walled court with no trees surrounded by manicured gardens adjacent to the existing Botanical Garden building. The design emerges from the challenge of imagining treehouse architecture on a tree-less site.
As a point of departure, an abstracted gabled house archetype floats above the surrounding walls, offering panoramic views out to the surrounding botanical garden. To create the "trees" that the house rests on and within, reflective surfaces are introduced, and the house profile is symmetrically mirrored down to generate a series of periscopes, transforming the Secret Garden into a Secret Forest. The resulting abstract, planar, and porous architecture, in combination with the surface reflection, yields a variety of dynamic views whether on the ground, above, around, or within, incorporating the broadest possible audience in the treehouse experience. Spaces throughout contain places to sit, walk through, and climb, a lattice for play and curiosity animated by Botanical Garden visitors of all ages.
Built for the extremely modest budget of $10,000 USD, the project was installed just 10 weeks from award. With limited access for construction, an off-site prefabricated structure was developed to minimize construction time on site, while limiting disturbance to the Garden's grounds. The light yet strong assembly included an interconnected solid steel rod frame, with infill panels of salvaged perforated metal and painted exterior grade plywood laminated with reflective Mylar. The design was tested iteratively through physical and digital models that were sent to the fabricator and used for construction. The result was a project that produced record summer attendance for the Botanical Garden, and important civic institution in Cleveland Ohio.