Landscape architecture advisers visit Soltis Center in Costa Rica

The Costa Rican rainforest offers a perfect venue for landscape architecture studies, according to program advisers who visited Texas A&M’s Soltis Center there last January.

Surrounded by a tropical rain forest and close to an active volcano, Texas A&M’s Soltis Center for Research and Education in Costa Rica could soon be hosting classes in landscape architecture. The recommendation came from the Texas A&M’s Landscape Architecture Professional Advisory Board whose members attended the center last January to complete a series of American Society of Landscape Architects continuing education courses.

“We saw many opportunities for class/curriculum considerations,” said Jim Manskey, board chairman. “We feel confident that many aspects of the landscape architecture curriculum can and should benefit from the facility and its environment.”

In addition to their own studies, the board learned about higher education opportunities at the center while sitting in on a minimester Design Process class led by Jorge Vanegas, dean of the College of Architecture.

They also met with Kim Soltis-Hammer, daughter and assistant to Bill Soltis ‘55, who donated the land for the center, then built it at his own expense. Soltis earned a mechanical engineering degree at Texas A&M.

The ASLA courses conducted at the center and led by center director Eugenio Gonzalez included:

  • A tour of the Finca Luna Nueva, a nearby sustainable farm, which showcased plant materials and the eco-friendly methods employed;
  • A lesson on how designers and constructors resolved accessibility challenges that came from building the center on a hilly rainforest site;
  • An introduction to the myriad plant and animal species native to the rainforest; and
  • A field trip to the nearby Arenal Volcano to learn about the use and preservation of the surrounding land.
The Soltis Center buildings are based on Texas A&M student designs chosen from a spring 2006 interdisciplinary studio project that engaged 62 students from architecture, landscape architecture and construction science in producing a site analysis and 12 different design concepts.
posted February 14, 2012