Landscape Architecture Meets Industrial Reuse at Smith Oaks Sanctuary in Texas
Landscape Architecture Meets Industrial Reuse in SWA Group and Schaum / Shieh’s Reinvention of Smith Oaks Shrine in Texas, USA
Transformed from a post-industrial site to a wildlife haven, the Smith Oaks Sanctuary is a lush, verdant landscape in High Island, Texas. The green expanse has just been enhanced with the light, expert touch from internationally renowned landscape architecture firm SWA Group and industrial reuse designs from New York and Houston based architecture studio Schaum / Shieh. At the heart of the concept is an elevated walkway that allows bird watching and stunning nature to be seen from the level of the tree canopy.
The Kathrine G McGovern Canopy Walkway is a 700-foot-long, 18-foot-high boardwalk that lifts and then pulls visitors into and through a canopy refuge long known to the birding community as an important stopover for birders. migratory birds, ”the team explains. Crafted from weathered timber and steel pipe, the structure nods to the site’s historic oil and gas infrastructure. Robust, but also refined, the footbridge has been designed to perfection for the ecology of the sanctuary. It leads to a viewpoint that allows visitors to observe migratory birds.
At the same time, the vestiges of the industrial past of the site enrich the architectural landscape of the environment. A salt dome, for example, rises and protects the surrounding marshes from tides and storm surges. More of the existing abandoned infrastructure was put to good use, reinvented for the needs of the sanctuary.
Enter Schaum / Shieh, who turned a 1930s concrete-and-brick pumping station into a visitor center. The historic brick structure has been carefully cleaned and displayed, creating an almost minimalist and utilitarian information and grouping pavilion. A smaller, newly constructed, gable-roofed structure nearby serves as a toilet for the park. Its soft green color allows it to blend in with its surroundings.
“Today, High Island offers a new perspective for bird watchers, where the productivity of its land was once measured in barrels,” the team says. While Texas has a patchy history when it comes to understanding its marked landscapes, Canopy Walk in High Island offers a site with layers of history that collide to support a unique ecology, particularly suitable for birds and their bird watchers. ” §