WEFAtetra INTERPRETATIVE CENTER

STUDIO 2-1 PROJECT

 
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During my first second-year studio class, I was tasked with designing an interpretative center for three ancient stones discovered in the arid region around Tucumcari, New Mexico. The stones originate from an ancient Native American tribe called the Wefa, where they were used in religious rituals.

I was required to include an exhibit on the culture of the Wefa people (the interpretative area) and a display room for showcasing the stones.

Each stone represents one of the four classical elements. The earth, fire, and water stones were discovered together arranged in an equilateral triangle. Unfortunately, the air stone was missing and has yet to be found. The question of how the air stone, if found, could be arranged among its companions is what led me to the design you see here.

The triangular building plan was inspired by the arrangement of the stones. Air, the most voluminous of the elements, can be represented both literally and symbolically by placing the fourth stone above the other three, resulting in a tetrahedral shape (appropriately, it's a three-dimensional analogue of the triangle). Since the program only requires one floor, we are left with a huge, lofty space for visitors to enjoy.

 
 

I placed the library, display and interpretive areas together into the main tetrahedral structure (to the left side of the plan below). Other program elements were placed to an ancillary area on the side (to the right). Special permission must be granted for researchers or guests to enter the library area. The storage room is off limits to the public, and houses artifacts from the dig site.

 
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As you walk into the museum, the first thing you see is the large, lofty space of the interpretative area. This is consistent with the theme of spaciousness and air. The exhibit is all over the walls; areas higher up will show very large images and text, while display cases below will contain various smaller artifacts excavated from the region.

View as one enters the museum. To the left is the south facing side of the building, which receives the most light. Notice the windows on the upper left. Instead of glass, they are made from a type of translucent corrugated plastic. This blocks out excess light and heat, allowing the inside to stay cooler.

View as one enters the museum. To the left is the south facing side of the building, which receives the most light. Notice the windows on the upper left. Instead of glass, they are made from a type of translucent corrugated plastic. This blocks out excess light and heat, allowing the inside to stay cooler.

 

Above - Preliminary sketches. Below - Some schematic design work:

 

Several restrictions were given for this project; the goal was for my classmates and I to utilize the natural environment in our designs. Thus, the site is in a remote area in the desert and the building does not have electricity. The stones themselves have mythical properties; they supposedly emit bright patterns of light when hit by moonlight during full moons or the equinoxes. If the water stone is hit with direct light, it will lose the ability to do this. I wanted the stones to be displayed together, similar to how they were found, so I strategically positioned the display case in a shaded area.

The display area.

The display area.

The Stones of Tucumcari.

The Stones of Tucumcari.

 
The site has a water collection system for the few times it actually rains in this region. The ground condition has a 1:20 slope, so water which lands in the collection area is funneled directly into a trough. There it is stored and filtered; it can then be used for the restroom sinks or for drinking. (The restroom's self-composting toilets do not require water.)

The site has a water collection system for the few times it actually rains in this region. The ground condition has a 1:20 slope, so water which lands in the collection area is funneled directly into a trough. There it is stored and filtered; it can then be used for the restroom sinks or for drinking. (The restroom's self-composting toilets do not require water.)

The library (above), with shelving space and stools. This is a semi-restricted area where researchers or guests can learn more about the Wefa culture from the available books and research.

The library (above), with shelving space and stools. This is a semi-restricted area where researchers or guests can learn more about the Wefa culture from the available books and research.

Lastly, if you haven't already guessed, the Wefa tribe never existed. "Wefa" stands for water, earth, fire, and air.