Students propose several design enhancements for Soltis Center

Learn more about Texas A&M’s Soltis center in Costa Rica, built based on designs created in a 2006 studio.

Fourteen undergraduate landscape architecture students spent their Spring Break designing features to enhance the educational experience at Texas A&M’s Soltis Center for Research and Education in Costa Rica.

At the center, students familiarized themselves with the buildings and forest acreage to determine needs and opportunities. Their trip was supported by the Texas A&M Landscape Architecture Professional Advisory Board.

Led by Jun Hyun Kim, assistant professor of landscape architecture, students either chose to create a master plan for the entire site or design elements for a specific area of the site aimed at augmenting the center’s function as an education and research facility and a center for ecotourism and public outreach.

Students created two master plans and many new features, including designs for a main entry area welcoming visitors, a new trail system for visitors to experience nature systems and life cycles of wildlife and plant life, pedestrian bridges, an observation garden, additional faculty and staff housing, outdoor classrooms and treehouses.

One group designed a raised walkway that would allow wildlife to move freely underneath, another group included a culinary garden in its design, and yet another group designed a stage for outdoor presentations.

They presented their concepts April 11, 2014 to a gathering in the Technical Reference Center that included Bill Soltis ’55, who donated land for the center and built it at his own expense, and his daughter and assistant Kim Soltis-Hammer.

Built in 2008 based on designs created in a multidisciplinary 2006 studio at Texas A&M’s College of Architecture, the center offers a unique setting for the development of multi-disciplinary research activities, service projects and study abroad courses.

It’s located in San Juan de Peñas Blancas, Costa Rica, near the Arenal Volcano and adjacent to the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, the nation’s largest private nature reserve, with almost 54,000 acres of rainforest.

“I don’t know of any other university that has a facility of this quality in the middle of a rain forest,” said Jorge Vanegas, dean of the College of Architecture, at the center’s 2009 dedication.

The center includes two main sections, a 98-acre area with classrooms and dorms and a 250-acre area designated for the conservation, study and research of the ecosystem. 

posted April 15, 2014