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Building a living laboratory in

the forested heart of

Arkansas

An interview with Fay Jones

School of Architecture and Design,

winners of the 2023 WAF

Visualization prize

Mar 05, 2024

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The Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation by Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design

The team behind the winning project

Lumion was proud to award the 2023 WAF Visualization prize to the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design.Their winning submission consisted of renderings of The Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation, a Fay Jones School project undertaken in collaboration with Picture Plane, Grafton Architects and Modus Studio. We caught up with Peter B. Mackeith, Dean and Professor of Architecture and Jonathan Boelkins, Teaching Assistant Professor at the Fay Jones School after the WAF event in Singapore, to discuss the winning project. We also learned more about the school itself and how visualization fits into their curriculum. Here’s our conversation.

Congratulations to both of you. We were delighted that you could be with us in person to collect the Visualization award, on behalf of the school, and the wider Anthony Timberlands Center project team. Well done to all of you.

Peter: Thank you, it was a pleasure to attend. We’re very proud of the Anthony Timberlands Center and it’s wonderful to see its design recognized in such a manner.

Could you describe the thoughts and intentions behind the project for us. What were you seeking to accomplish with the design of the Anthony Timberlands Center?

Peter: Certainly, and to do that I think it’s important to understand the location of the center. The Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation is rooted in the 19 million acres of Arkansas Forest, which covers 57% of the state. The forest is a powerful factor in the state’s economy and overall culture.

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As the Fay Jones School in 2023, we asked ourselves, what does it mean to be a public university and a school of architecture and design in a place such as Arkansas? How can a building embody the ambitions of such a state, university, and school? We asked the same question to citizens of our state, and our partners in the project. The project was designed by Grafton Architects of Dublin, Ireland, together with assistance from Modus Studio of Fayetteville, Arkansas, and visualized by Picture Plane of London, England.

Our ambition was for the Anthony Timberlands Center to showcase the forest qualities and wood products of Arkansas. We wanted the center to demonstrate various contemporary and historical means of building from the forest. The presence of wood is an essential part of the story of this building.

Each and every species available in Arkansas's Forest has been examined and positioned to their advantage from the large-scale structure all the way down to specific details and surfaces. The building is an encyclopedia of the forest, a storybook of wood.

To what extent do you believe the project has achieved its ambitions?

Peter: I think the building stands as a reflection of the ambitions of the project overall and ultimately of the story of Arkansas's forests, the story of Arkansas's citizens, and the story of our school and university. In every instance, Grafton has worked with Modus and our entire design and construction team to bring forward a building of not only surpassing elegance, but intense purposefulness.

The presence of wood is an essential part of the story of this building. The building is an encyclopedia of the forest, a storybook of wood.

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Peter B. Mackeith

Dean and Professor of Architecture, Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design

How important were the visualizations to the project?

Peter: Fundamental. Having compelling, realistic visualization was a critical part of the project’s realization, both in terms of refining the design but also in generating interest and financial support. The visualizations also aided communication throughout the project since the design process, by and large, had to be conducted remotely. The commission was awarded in February of 2020 and the pandemic hit in March.

Picture Plane worked with Grafton Architects to create the Competition design renders and continued to develop the renders and generate new visualizations through schematic, developed, and construction design. Picture Plane created many working drafts of the visualization at each stage facilitating design team commentary on light, materiality, and spatial relationships. This allowed the Owner and General Contractor to more fully understand the design proposal as it evolved and as it was finalized.

Another effect of the pandemic was a dramatic increase in labor and material costs for construction which increased the overall project cost significantly. The increased budget necessitated a sustained fundraising campaign and compelling images of the design were essential to that process.

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