The Evans Tree House at Garvan Woodland Gardens
Honor Award 2019
Hot Springs, AR
Chris Baribeau, AIA
Josh Siebert, Assoc. AIA
Suzana Annable, AIA
Scott Penman, Assoc. AIA
Philip Rusk, Assoc. AIA
Jody Verser, Assoc. AIA
Jason Wright, Assoc. AIA
Nestled in a natural Ouachita Mountain hillside along Lake Hamilton at Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas, The Evans Children’s Adventure Garden welcomed a new tree house to the grounds in summer of 2018. This tree house is the first of three planned for the garden that will provide an interactive educational experience for visiting children as part of an ambitious plan to bring children back into the woods. The tree house uses a rich visual and tactile environment to stimulate the mind and body to strengthen connections back to the natural world, while accommodating the needs of all users.
This unique structure is a defining small project for the designers. From design to fabrication they were able to merge their childhood-earned knowledge of the natural world with their hard-earned think, make, do philosophy. Because of the designers' own mostly-rural upbringing, it is easy to take for granted their strong connection to the creeks, forests, insects, and animals of Arkansas. However, many children in the modern world are unfortunately disconnected from this type of play.
The underlying theme of dendrology, the study of trees and wooded plants, drives both the form and program of the structure. The 113 ribs comprising the thermalized Arkansas-sourced Southern Yellow Pine screen creates a semi-transparent and an evocative form dynamically shrouding multiple levels of spaces for children and adults alike that refocus attention to the natural wonders of the forest canopy.
The mysterious form, creative play of shadow and light and sound, exploration of material, and adventure that the Tree House provides becomes a magical experience within the Ouachita Forest…easily bending among native pines and oaks.