Gabion Shelter

Proposal to the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education / Developed in conjunction with Eileen Tognini


The structure resembles that of a tool shed, or a tiny house in the woods, but upon closer inspection it is the fusion of art and architecture, natural and man made, function and folly. The materials and methods pay homage to natural and architectural references within the site itself. This structure has its own justification as both a safe haven and a visual “dictionary” of re-use materials.

Primarily used for erosion control and storm water management, gabions are wire cages filled with materials such as sand, rock and soil. These removable structures have a curiously sensual, primeval quality, like the historic dry stone walls on the site of The Schuylkill Center. Inspired by the remnants of this wall, as well as the sloping land and pollywog pond, gabion-cages will be constructed using repurposed metal and installed as single structure on the chosen site. Curated with content relevant to the both natural surroundings as well as the urban environs, an assemblage of detritus will fill each cage. Imagine stone, branches, sod, machine parts, glass bottles and so on colorfully arranged yet safely contained and made useful as a viablebuilding solution. While the cage structure creates a pattern that remains linear, the baled materials– as a collection of individual fragments– allow for visual movement and play within a rigid frame. Moreover, the structure will metamorphose over time with the natural collection of leaves, branches and climbing vines, becoming home to an array of small creatures, creating a habitat within habitat.

The proposed “Gabion Shelter” is the collaboration between a designer, landscape architect and curator, each with an individual vocabulary and style. Taking cues from the land, the Center’s history and the remnants of surviving architecture, the Gabion Shelter will serve as an engaging educational opportunity for children to better understand recycling, re-use and sustainability.