UI helps design 3D art structure

BY ZACHARY POUND | JULY 21, 2011 7:20 AM

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Overlooking the Coralville Reservoir is a structure that resembles a transparent geometrically made hut.

The Oca — which is Portuguese for a native Brazilian hut — is part of a 3D art project started by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the Reservoir. The project is expected to be completes today.

"The idea was to create something out of natural materials that a person wouldn't expect to see on a trail," said Monica Correia, University of Iowa associate professor of art. "We're making a place for people to sit down and enjoy the nature around them in this structure."

Correia said she worked with two former students, Terry Rathje and Vinicius Lima, and one 3D design graduate student, Maria Elisa Mandarim de Lacerda, who works at TheDaily Iowan, to build the Oca, using natural materials.

The original idea to build something on the trails came from Jeffrey Peck, a natural-resources specialist and park ranger at the Reservoir.

"If we keep doing this year after year, we'll be able to get more people out on trail to enjoy these structures," said Peck.

Going from a hand-sketched plan, the team of students is building the Oca out of branches and whatever they can find in the area. Hikers will be able to sit inside the Oca on wooden stools around a table, also made out of branches.

"The Oca is a vernacular structure, means that it is not what you consider to be designed by a traditional architect," said Terry Rathje, a former student of Correia's and an art professor at Western Illinois University who is working on the Oca.

He said this building was similar to that which native Brazilians had built. While the enclosures are structurally sound, Rathje said, they can suffer at the hands of the elements, and after some time, a new one will need to be built.

"We expect it to stand for about a year granted that nothing happens to it," Rathje said, and he hopes that people hiking the trail will come to the lake to appreciate the structure while enjoying the outdoors.

The Oca is located toward the end of Woodpecker Trail by Squire Point, which overlooks the Reservoir.

The structure resembles a dome climber commonly found in playgrounds. It's made out of branches from the surrounding area and is held together by twine. The table inside the Oca will also be made from large branches, and the seats made from logs.

Peck said he hopes that the structure will last until the next one can be built.

And Correia said she has a natural solution to strengthen it.

"We plan to plant native grapevines around it in the hopes that the vines will grow on the structure and help to hold it together," she said.

Construction has gone along smoothly, with the workers working in the morning hours to avoid the increasingly hot temperatures. Construction of the Oca began two weeks ago, and the structure is expected to be completed Thursday.

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