Daylight Investigations



Bryan Murren


Charles Sharpless


University of Arkansasat Fayetteville


United States


Project Description

PROJECT DESCRIPTION Chihuahuan Desert Native Americans, ranchers and thrill seekers have long come to the Chihuahuan desert of west Texas. The sky here is brimming with so much activity the Big Bend National Park park is designated as an International Dark Sky Park. During times of distance and uncertainty, star gazing can be a way to reconnect with and inspire each other. Whether it be our star, the sun or those scattered through the Milky Way. The last stop before the Marufo Vega Trail loops back for 10 miles, Star City is located here in the Chihuahuan Desert. Star City A hybrid of traditional and contemporary architectural discourse with a conventional, unitized construction system. Star City is made up of three Gates, the Piazza and Watchtower. Each has their own character, and they all connect us with the cosmos. Organization The Star City is organized in a pinwheel, the Gates lead to the Piazza and the Watchtower is located around the Piazza’s edge. This traditional organization is accentuated by a contemporary attitude to conceptualize architecture as a figural filter and container of light and space. Material and Materiality As a structural system, the concrete frame is seen in remote areas of the world. A hybrid system of manipulated CMU blocks, cast and precast concrete. The projects goal of synthesizing tradition, convention and contemporary design is furthered in the blocks. The blocks are thought of as light vessels themselves, transmitting light and appearing to be weightless. Though they are all the same block type, their directional manipulation changes your perspective of them depending on your elevation. When viewed from below, the blocks transmit light appearing to be weightless, when viewed from above they don't transfer light, becoming dark and heavy. The Gates The Gates are Star City’s thresholds, such as a visitor might ask for directions when entering a city, the Gates subtly orient hikers or adventurers who may have become disoriented during their time on the trail. Each gate is illuminated for a portion of each day, building intensity through repetition and nuance. The West Gate suggests you go further into the trail and is illuminated before midday, the East and North Gates suggest you go back to the trail head and is illuminated after midday. The Gates are fine-tuned by using the CMU blocks to catch daylight at the necessary time. The Piazza The Piazza is for rest and gathering, a center for activity with thick spatial edges for privacy and rest. The Gates axes terminate into niches, surrounding the hearth. The niches are shielded by a partial wall which sculpts light entering the Piazza. Light filters in through low hanging walls of CMU blocks, transmitted from the openings above each niche. Centrally located is a hearth, for being together. At night you can see the moon and the stars from the niches. The Watchtower At a different elevation than the rest of Star City, the Watchtower is a place to track the suns movement. Made up of two parts; a measured wall to the north and a southern wall- both parallel and oriented East and West. When cast on a measured wall, the southern wall’s shadow reflects our spatial relationship to the sun through architecture.