by Scrap Marshall (AADipl2012) Visiting School Tutor
13 November 2013 Eugene, Oregon   The Bauman Family Tree Farm is situated 20 kilometres from the city of Eugene, Oregon. The 673 acre farm forms part of nearly 30 million acres of forest that covers the state. The farm grows and harvests a tiny fraction of the 4 billion board square feet of timber harvested annually.   Every year, several thousand middle school children visit the working tree farm on the outskirts of Crow to learn about ecology and the natural lifecycles of the forest, but also importantly the management of a vital piece of the physical and economic fabric of the state. Students as part of their studies are asked to utilize the immediate research collected during their visit to sketch up a plan of how a family could run a tree farm, manage its resources, and turn a profit while maintaining a sustainable and healthy forest.   In 2012, a different educational model was added to the annual cycle of the Bauman Tree Farm. ‘Marking The Forest’ is a collaborative venture that brings together the AA, the University Of Oregon, and the Bauman Family, with support from Rosboro Lumber Mills. Their collective goal is to give architecture and design students the opportunity to rethink -- and articulate an alternative view of -- the relationship between natural resources and the built environment through the construction of an architectural intervention in the forest. As part of a projected five-year cycle, the group of students come together for 10 days to design and build a structure and space that provide a fresh view of the forest as well as additional learning stations or platforms for the use of the existing educational program.
The work is through direct contact. The members have to – and indeed it is impossible not to – engage in the critical nature of what, how and who they are building for. In an intense and short period of time, students develop interests and opinions while learning practical skills. Site, context and materials are tested not in isolation but directly on site, and a very difficult line is traversed where phenomenological interests and ambitions push pragmatism and practicalities to the limit.   [caption id="attachment_2320" align="alignnone" width="258"] The Amplifier, Eugene 2013[/caption] The first efforts of the project emerged in the form of a truncated cone - the Oculus - perched high on a ridge overlooking the valleys of Lane County. Utilizing the by-products of plywood production in the form of thin Douglas Fir veneers, led to the creation of a strange, hairy but intriguing object. Once inside the structure, the pitch-dark interior slowly reveals itself to be a camera obscura as the eyes adjust and the detail of the forest is superimposed on the rear of the curved interior. With a pull of a concealed rope, the angled roof snaps open to form an oculus where light spills down through the canopy.
In August 2013, another facet of the larger project was completed, this time at the very center of the tree farm. Puncturing a ring of small wooden shelters, or stations, where children discuss the individual operations and processes of the tree farm, the ‘Amplifier’ provides a gateway from the clearing of the meadow to the darkness of the forest. The senses are heightened as you pass through the stack of lumber while a protruding bench invites close analysis and discussion of the wetlands nearby.   [caption id="attachment_2319" align="alignnone" width="360"] Camera Obscura, Eugene 2012 [/caption] In the same way that the structures themselves give an alternative view of the forest, the hope is that the overall project can also give an alternative view in which we can view or consider design education. It is hoped that the interventions will expose the shared but evolving interests, efforts, skills and knowledge gained by the students and indeed the tutors themselves over the project's lifespan.   For more information: Marking the Forest Visiting School is directed by Stewart Dodd and Kristin Cross and is held each August in the Oregon wilderness. Marking the Forest Visiting School brief Marking the Forest Visiting School microsite Scrap Marshall on Projects Review 2011-12