Located in between an art building, a lecture hall and a design building X-Scape activates an otherwise dull area of a university campus. The project is built on top of a square brick area of about 1575 SF, which was not to be altered or penetrated (per guidelines). The challenge for our team was to create a space that provides accessibility, daily usability, event/performance areas and gathering areas. Our interdisciplinary team was composed of five undergraduate students; one architecture student, two landscape architecture students, a photography student, and a music student. As winners of a university competition we were given the opportunity to build our proposed design.
The design process first began with a variety of design schemes and programs from individual members of the team. Yet, the final design was the product of a series of discussions among the team, through which we formulated our ideas and refined up until the first day of construction. It was the collaboration process that allowed our team to design and build such a successful project. As a team we realized that the our project needed to provide ADA access to the otherwise inaccessible space. It also needed shade, which allows people to sit, gather and hangout. We also realized early on that we need to tie the design into its context and that these issues cannot be after thoughts later in the design phase.
Through several days of dialogue it occurred to us that solution was a series of simple, yet powerful moves. The form of the design needed to adopt an ADA accessible circulation from the beginning. Then, spaces for potential gathering areas needed to be defined. Third, box trees would be brought to the site to provide shade for these spaces and link to the existing canopy. Finally, the placement of the trees is what informs the surface of 2 ft. and 4 ft. strips that covers the boxes while creating a variety of seating typologies. The result was X-Scape, a hybrid landscape that is a multi-level and multi-purpose space that the community can use for gathering, studying, relaxing and performing.
Other inspiration for the project is derived from its context, the colorful fuchsia cladding draws inspiration from the colors created by an adjacent 30-foot high Bougainvillea that climbs the south wall of the design building. Each piece was hand stained to match the colors created by the plant. The team worked together to create a visual composition that would be complimentary to both. We learned much from the photography student who was crucial in setting up this visual. Throughout the year the Bougainvillea drops colorful bracts (often mistaken for flower petals) that are blown and scattered amidst the project. This turns what some consider plant litter into an ephemeral addition to the space.
Jasmine, Coral Fountain, and Red Fountain Grass were all chosen and integrated for their sensory qualities. Jasmine(Jasminum sambac) was used for its fragrant flowers and rich green leaves that blend well with the project. Coral Fountain (Russelia equisetiformis) and Red Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'red fountain grass') were chosen to be a part of the bold graphic that the cladding of the project creates. All of the plants in the project are hand-watered by the team, allowing non-Landscape Architecture students to learn about plant care and maintenance.
The design uses five 36” boxed thorn-less Palo Verde 'Desert Museums' and three 48” boxed thorn-less Mesquite hybrids trees. The result is a natural canopy that links beyond the limits of the project, essentially borrowing the landscape. The form of the project uses 2 ft. and 4 ft. strips to be able to fully cover a 48” box. Also, the dimensions of the strips take full advantage of a standard 4'x8' sheet of plywood in order to reduce waste. The structure of the project was designed to be modular. Each module is constructed off-site then moved and assembled on-site, allowing for a relatively fast assembly and removal.
The project has been a great success and is used on a daily basis. It is often occupied by people relaxing in between classes, studying, gathering or curious visitors. X-Scape has also hosted a range of events from club meetings to large group performances. Seeing the community using our space has been one of the most rewarding aspects of this project. It is always heartwarming to see people use the space we created in ways we couldn't have imagined.