Students creating master plans, designs for youth therapy center

Students are creating designs for The Phoenix Center, which serves children age 3-18 in a six-county Central Texas area.

Administrators aiming to elevate treatment at the Phoenix Center, a central Texas facility that provides mental health therapy to children, are advising design students at Texas A&M who are creating architectural and master plan concepts for a new center facility on a 92-acre site.

“Our vision is to create a state-of-the-art facility that will provide research-based therapy to treat trauma, physical or sexual abuse,” said Sarah Garrett, founder and executive director of the Phoenix Center, located in Marble Falls, approximately 50 miles west of Austin. “This is a wonderful opportunity for the students to create innovative design solutions and make a lasting change in the lives of children and families who have experienced trauma.”

With the plans, Phoenix Center administrators hope to spur donations to the center’s capital campaign, created to purchase land, construct new buildings, expand the center’s equine therapy program, support increased operating expenses and build an endowment.

The center serves children ages 3-18 in a six-county area where child abuse is 2.1 times higher than the state average. More than four in five children the center serves are from low-income families.

To become familiar with the center’s services and the site of the proposed facility, 49  students in three studios — a graduate and second-year undergraduate architecture studio and a graduate landscape architecture studio — traveled to the center Sept. 12, 2016, to meet staff and tour the center’s Candlelight Ranch, which hosts equine therapy, ropes challenge courses and team building programs.

Following the visit, the students, working in 8 groups, began concept development and preliminary design with input from Phoenix Center administrators and staff.  

To enhance students’ learning experience, teams will consist of multidisciplinary teams including two second-year environmental design students, at least one graduate architecture student and two graduate landscape architecture students.

“For example, a landscape architecture major may lead the group’s master planning efforts, but the project’s students will learn how to think and present collectively instead of individually,” said Eric Bardenhagen, assistant professor of landscape architecture, one of the faculty members leading the project. "With this kind of multidisciplinary experience, our students will know how to collaborate across disciplines to create meaningful places.”

After a mid-term review, students will create master plans, models and renderings of facility and landscape designs, and present them in Marble Falls to Phoenix Center officials at the conclusion of the semester.

Several graduate architecture and landscape architecture students, who have chosen the project as their final study, assisted the project’s development in summer 2016 and in spring 2017 will further develop master plans and designs created this semester.

Funding for the project, which includes two daylong, charter bus trips to the center, includes a $25,000 high-impact learning grant from the College of Architecture. 

College faculty leading the project include Bardenhagen, Kirk Hamilton and George J. Mann, professors of architecture, Zhipeng Lu, senior architecture lecturer, and Jorge Vanegas, professor of architecture and dean of the College of Architecture.

posted September 20, 2016