Threshold and Garden

« Back

Project: Description

Observation Tower, a theoretical design for a student observatory and natural sciences center on the campus of Bryn Mawr College in Lower Merion Township, Pennsylvania.

About the Course:

Studio 410: Architecture and Landscape Studies I (DENV 410) provides an introduction to fundamental topics in architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design.  These topics are investigated directly through the production, transformations, and interpretations of landscapes and structural designs in two- and three-dimensional media.  The design project developed in this studio involves considerations of siting, building envelop, and landscape elements including garden, threshold, and wall (physical separation of interior and exterior spaces).

Project Design Requirements:

Locate and design a three story building on a steep slope on the campus of Bryn Mawr College.  This building should contain classrooms for the study, display, and storage of both artifacts and instruments.  The first level is to house microscopic study, the second optic/topographic survey, and the third telescopic study, including an observatory similar to the Romsey Obsevatory designed by Rev. E. L. Berthon.

Click on any image to view enlarged version.


The project should be no greater in height than 39'-0" from foundation to the top of the revolving observatory roof.  The observation center's tower should have a 15'-0" by 15'-0" square footprint.  The project scope also requires the design a threshold, garden, and wall for collection and viewing. Design issues include distance perception (e.g. very distant, distant, near, very near), sky/water/earth, cutting the land, collection and enclosure, and temporal conditions (nighttime versus daytime).

  • Threshold - Design the entrance/exit to the observation center.
  • Garden - Design a garden or exterior room that is contiguous to one of the classrooms and contains an element for the collection, containment, and/or dispersal of water.
  • Wall - Design the wall of the study center that physically separates or mediates between the garden and the internal space of the building.  The wall should accommodate the study, display, and storage of artifacts and include both access and a view to the garden.

Conceptual Design:

Design Concept - An exploration into site and interspatial relationships in both the vertical and horizontal planes through site visits and technical drawings using hand rendering techniques.

Concept Inspiration - "The framed threshold, with its implications of spatial and temporal dimensions, is a location that negotiates, as in the opposing directions inherent in Janus, insides and outsides, immanence and transcendence, beginnings and endings - sets that may be sacred or profane..."

~ Jay Fellows, "Janusian Thresholds" (1982)

Design Development:

Finalization of the design concept through the development of scale drawings and preparation of presentation graphics.

Aerial View - Pencil and Charcoal Rendering.  Original drawing: 36" x 24"

First Level (Lab with Biology Pool) - Technical Drawing in Pencil and Charcoal.

Second Level (Natural Sciences Lab) - Technical Drawing in Pencil.

Third Level (Structure Below Observatory Pitch) - Technical Drawing in Pencil.

Telescope Level (Observatory) - Technical Drawing in Pencil.

Interior "Wall" Elevation - Technical Drawing in Pencil.  Original Scale: ¼" = 1'-0"