AUGUSTA — Architecture students wanted their design for a proposed four-season lodge to make people want to discover the trails and woods of Bond Brook Recreation Area.
Their would-be clients, as well as their professors at the University of Maine at Augusta, loved the design, naming it one of two winners out of about a dozen student projects.
But they also said the team’s somewhat bland visual presentation made it too hard for the viewer to discover exactly what it was they were supposed to be discovering.
“Our inspiration for discovery came from thinking about the activities taking place there,” said Karl Schladlich, one of the architecture students. “People will be skiing, running and hiking, discovering new things as they go through the woods.”
The aspiring architecture students — Schladlich, Gretchen Fehlau, Kat Jones-Libby, Abbey Pelletier and Earl Shields — say they’ve made their own discoveries in the process: it helps to have thick skin, not just creativity, vision, and technical ability. Because the projects they worked intensely to complete in just a week and a half each faced exacting scrutiny Monday when presented to a review panel in a gallery at UMA’s downtown architecture program building.
Jones-Libby said that’s just part of learning to be an architect.
Their proposed lodge would be located at the mouth of a large bowl-like stadium area of the Bond Brook Recreation Area, where it would serve as a day lodge for skiers, hikers, bicyclists, and other trail users, as well as office and meeting space and public gathering space.
The Discover team’s design featured large wooden beams running prominently across the ceiling, and views of the trails and open stadium area. But the review panel said the group’s presentation, a small three-dimensional model and two boards of mockups of various parts of the structure, didn’t draw viewers in easily enough.
“At first, this project wasn’t talked about by anyone,” said Amy Hinkley, an assistant architecture professor at UMA. “If you look at the plan, spend some time with it, you realize how beautiful it is. But the presentation, those drawings, didn’t do enough. We had to discover it, it didn’t grab us enough.”
The proposed multi-use lodge is planned as part of a second phase of development of the roughly 260-acre forested trail system on city-owned land between Bond Brook and the Augusta State Airport. The trails are being developed by a nonprofit group, Augusta Trails.
Fundraising efforts for the trail system and eventual lodge are ongoing, so construction could still be some time away.
But proponents of building a lodge at the site now have about a dozen potential design ideas, courtesy of the UMA architecture program, for free.
“This doesn’t seem like student work; they all feel like professional designs,” said Kathleen Sikora, a member of the board of directors of Augusta Trails.
Students proposed a variety of designs, including one with an elegant bridge/observation deck connecting two buildings with a trail running underneath. Another featured a building made up of two sweeping curves connected at the center, with public meeting space upstairs and garage doors for storage on the lower level.
Most of the designs featured wood as a prominent material, which some panelists said was crucial because it is a sustainable, locally-available material.
Leif Dahlin, who is both a board member of Augusta Trails and, as the city’s director of community services, also oversees the city’s recreational properties, had mostly practical concerns first and foremost in his review criteria.
He was looking for a building that would be affordable, easy to close off in sections so parts of it could be used while other parts not in use could be secured, and bathrooms accessible from both the interior and exterior.
The panelists said most of the students appeared to have listened and paid attention to what their clients wanted in a building for the trail system.
“For having just a week and a half to do this, these are all fabulous,” said Rex Turner, a board member of Augusta Trails. “The building is meant to be nice, and emblematic, yes, but it’s really about getting people to enjoy the outside world.”
Keith Edwards — 621-5647