A forest preserve in Omaha was the atypical site for this small-scale, temporary, educational installation. This forest, surrounded by urban development on three sides, occupies a small pocket in the city. The client, a nature association, sponsored a competition soliciting a series of designs to be located within its property. An existing wood nature walk took visitors though the forest offering varying perspectives from ground level to views in the tree canopy. This one mile long walkway, made with traditional deck construction materials and techniques, was to be the site. Entrants were asked to select a location for 4 the temporary structure and to design a piece that would not alter the forest in any permanent way.
The competition brief also asked for submissions that would be educational in regards to the topics of sustainability and stewardship, and that they exhibit some level of interactivity. Topics critiqued varied widely including the reuse of shipping pallets, alternative energy, and plastic bottle recycling. The design for this project was set up as a critique on the current state of cities and suburban sprawl perpetuated by the automobile. All materials for the structure were recycled or repurposed including auto parts as ‘landscaping,’ and a deck salvaged from a suburban home. The design, positioned at the edge of the boardwalk, takes advantage of a spectacular view of the downtown skyline, the epicenter of the city’s sprawl.
Interactive elements included several designed situations that brought awareness to the effects of the personal vehicle, the city, and its sprawl. Educational displays included chronological maps of Omaha’s growth, facts regarding automobile use and emissions, and the resultant pollution created. Elements included a car door in which the viewer sits adjacent to and rolls down a foggy window, revealing the view of downtown. Exhaust pipes were repurposed in the nearby forest, positioned in the ground as if they are a landscaping of sorts. A handrail, made of repurposed suspension leaf springs and exhaust pipe, held car mirrors and maps that illustrated the growth of Omaha since 1900. Lastly, the deck platform itself was formed as if caught in motion, folding out into the forest, metaphorically extending itself out into nature in the same fashion as suburban sprawl.
**work completed while employed at another office. brian (lead designer, project architect)