This proposal explores the agency and resistance of found materials in a historic parcel of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The structure reexamines the spatial potential of local resources along a riparian edge. The strategy is a network of articulated native black willow-tetrahedrons that follow the curvature of the land as it bends around the river. This low, horizontal construction sits framed by the steep hillside emerging from behind. The proposal capitalizes on old infrastructures and new modes of access, echoing historic use and reviving a vibrant dialogue with the terrain itself.
The initial site visit revealed an overgrown clearing following the lowland edge. Considering the history of Calderwood, it is likely the remnants of the rail line built to transport those living in the nearby town, Happy Valley, to work in what would become the epicenter of construction for the nearby Cheoah, Santeetlah, Calderwood and Chilhowee dams (21 years before TVA is created). This moment, etched into the landscape, represents an entire history of expansion and abandonment as well as of regional drought and flooding. The project pins a time in the 1900s in which the extraction of local resources necessitated the establishment of rail, settlement, and large infrastructural economies before all facilities succumbed to the river. These events express an interplay of human, forest, and river edges retreating and advancing.
This site is situated at the intersection of three stakeholders: the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Cherokee National Forest, and Brookfield Renewables. By proposing an architectural trailhead and curated floodplain landscape, the project promotes a new type of land use on both sides of the river, expanding the rules of land management for both the National Park and the National Forest.
The design strategy translates found materials within the land into architectural expression. The vegetation at the building site is unexpectedly diverse for an area of such high disturbance. The proposed plant palette required an understanding the dynamics of water as interception and reservoir. The soils retain a high water content in the site's lower elevation, providing a range of species that grow adjacent to the comparatively dry and significantly larger oak + hickory forest. This riparian zone registers the softwoods, vines, exposed shale and fine clay that parallel the found materials in the neighboring extraction parcel. By pursuing these found logics and low-impact material processes, the proposal remains grounded to the flowing dynamism of this edge and the potential to access the stratified heights of the oak + hickory ecosystem
The extraction strategy is a deliberate, visual cut-fill endeavor. The ground is hollowed out, yielding timber, aggregate, shale and clay. The landscape is supplemented to create a defined outdoor room that contrasts the overgrowth of the land. This project celebrates the honest relationship between its building materials and the carving of the pit. Process becomes local and raw. The physical act of clearing is then compacted and reinforced, allowing the installation of an artificial pond that creates a new, inhabitable space for visitors to observe the narrative of extraction, production and construction.
The structure itself plays on the logics of interior and exterior, adopting a language of legible joineries and edges with overlapping spaces articulated by moveable walls. A ramping system becomes a wayfinding mechanism, defined by alternating materiality from room to room. Each space is defined through levels of enclosure and the subsequent thermal comfort as the architecture moves from dry land to the water’s edge. Adjacency to water and the juxtaposition of material textures drives the experience moving through space. Thermal nuance plays in tandem with the lowland microclimate and moments of enclosure and transparency.