Home on the range for Aggie architecture school

August 11, 2010

Sawhorses may be the closest thing to livestock riding the range at Texas A&M University’s new “Architecture Ranch,” a large-scale workshop on the school’s Riverside Campus.

When it opens this fall, the largely open work area will grant students hands-on experience building full-scale structures. It will also encourage collaboration among faculty and students in the College of Architecture’s three departments: architecture, landscape architecture, and construction science.

“Our hope is that this building will harness and enhance our interdisciplinary activities,” said Taeg Nishimoto, architecture professor and registered architect coordinating the project.

Nishimoto’s top priority in designing the $750,000 project was to procure space where faculty and students could test their research theories by constructing full-size experimental prototypes. Previously, students and faculty had access to a woodshop on campus that was suitable only for small-scale projects.

“Much more large-scale construction is possible, as well as making noise and making a mess,” said Nishimoto.

He secured 14 acres for the ranch, known formally as the Built Environment Teaching and Research Facility, on the Riverside Campus, which is about 10 miles from the main campus. Architects Hunter-Moody and Meridian Constructors, both of Houston, built an 8,125-sf building on the site, along with an 1,800-sf porch, covered with a 20- to 30-foot-high canopy, to protect students from the sun and rain.

To control costs, only the bathroom, shower room, and office areas of the 125x65-foot building are mechanically air-conditioned. “The rest of the big, open space has to rely on the traditional south breeze,” said Nishimoto.

The building, which was completed in May, faces due south and uses 16x16-foot roll-up doors on the north and south sides to let the breeze flow through. A series of ventilation openings, some with electrical fans, were installed above the doors.

The first project to be built on the ranch will be a solar house that will compete in the 2007 Solar Decathlon in Washington, D.C.

         
 

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