If the architecture students hard at work at Durham Central Park this week don’t get it right, they’ll be the first to know. The leaf-shaped structure they’re building is designed to provide a shady area for park patrons. The scorching sun baking the park with triple-digit temperatures lately has provided a real-world test they just couldn’t get in the classroom.
William Dodge, one of a dozen graduate students working on the project, says the design is innovative, even counterintuitive.
“It’s a shade structure with no roof,” he explains.
See How It Works
In fact, the structure’s modern design is striking in its simplicity. It’s made of a series of 16-foot-tall cypress slats connected to a steel frame. The slats are placed so they filter the sun effectively throughout the day, guaranteeing lots of shade, even in the middle of a very hot summer. As an added bonus, the structure doubles as a stage for concerts and plays in the park.
Laying the Foundation
Students went through a rigorous planning and design process before they began building the structure. They met with city planners, local architects and members of the park’s board of directors, then developed more than a dozen scale models before settling on the final design.
They’ve worked with the city to get permits, raised funds to offset construction costs and spent hours on site, putting it all together. It’s a big job, says Dodge.
“Some parts of the frame weigh 900 or 1,000 pounds,” he says. “Most of the structure has been made by students in the shop, working with a welding gun.”
Theory Versus Reality
The students are receiving guidance from Durham-based architects Randy Lanou and Ellen Cassilly. The summer project—known as a design-build studio—is part of an ongoing effort by the College of Design to provide students with real-world experience.
It’s an effort that meets expectations.
“None of this is theoretical,” Dodge says during a break in construction. “This is reality.”