Design+Make wins big

Posted on April 27th, 2017 at 7:32 am by

March was a good month at el dorado. We were notified that the 2015-2016 Design+Make Studio project, Preston Outdoor Education Station, won a special mention in the Architizer A+ Awards, as “work that exhibits remarkable achievement and that scored in the top 15% of entrants from 100 countries.” Then, a week later, an A+ Award for Student Work in AZURE Magazine’s AZ Awards, one of 70 finalists chosen from more than 800 entries arriving from 41 countries. Finally, to complete the hat trick, the Preston Outdoor Education Station received an American Architecture Award, given by The Chicago Athenaeum.

Earlier this year, the project also won an ACSA Design+Build Award, the second for the studio led by eldo principal David Dowell.

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The goal of the Design+Make Studio, started in 2011 as a partnership between el dorado and Kansas State University’s College of AP Design, is to expose students to the act of making and the process required to translate abstract ideas into actual constructed form. Design+Make provides students with a lens into the entire process of a project becoming a reality, from concept to construction to finished product. el dorado has a deep history of designing and making, using our own fabrication shop as an avenue for the exploration of materials and process, to continue a dogged pursuit of well-crafted architectural spaces and design excellence within every project we touch.



This was the studio’s most ambitious project to date in one of our most favorite, rural landscapes, the Kansas Flint Hills. The project, situated within YMCA’s Camp Wood, is located west of Cottonwood Falls, Kan., in the heart of the Tallgrass Prairie.

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The project was originally proposed as a single shade pavilion that would serve as a gathering space to educate visitors and campers about the surrounding grasslands. The students took the initial program and ambitiously expanded its scope to include five education stations that each leverage locally sourced materials and landscape to offer thematic, site-specific narratives to visitors. The stations are connected by a pathway featuring a 300-linear foot dry stack limestone wall.

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Site Plan



Gathering Station


Wind Station

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Sky Station

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Grass Station

“As architects, we are taught throughout our schooling to conduct in-depth site analyses that dig deep into the essence of place and can reveal aspects and opportunities for a design,” said Phil Macaluso, one of 13 students that were part of the project. “Through the process of designing with a conscious awareness of a place, an architectural work can also benefit sustainability practices, conservation efforts, and create beautiful, spiritual places.”


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