Storywalk & Reading Roost

Between 2022-2023, a unique design-build agenda unfolded between our architectural design program the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum of Harrisonburg, VA, creating a profound impact on students, the community, and our curriculum. The catalyst for this initiative was the presence of numerous ailing oak trees afflicted by disease within the Arboretum. Recognizing the potential of these trees, the Harrisonburg Public Works Department volunteered to mill, dry, and donate these fallen oaks to our studio. This gesture transformed a potential waste issue into a valuable local material supply for future community design-build projects. Simultaneously, the Arboretum Administration reached out to our program, seeking assistance in revitalizing the Arboretum, which had faced funding constraints during the pandemic. Upon hearing the idea of a Story Walk & Reading Roost, utilizing the very oaks that were once part of the Arboretum's landscape, was proposed. This idea became the focal point of the Spring 2023 design-build studio.

The design-build agenda extended beyond a mere gathering space with story signs. It embodied a multifaceted ethos, emphasizing community engagement, the circularity of materials, and the regeneration of natural environments. In addition, it aligned with the mission of revitalizing the Arboretum itself, which not only attracted more visitors but also addressed crucial funding challenges stemming from the pandemic. Students engaged deeply with the project, learning aspects of circularity and place, resourcefulness, and the capacity of materials.