written by:
February 25, 2009
Originally published in Green Goes Mainstream
Architecture professor Laura Terry and her students spent a summer designing and creating new facilities for young campers with physical and developmental disabilities.
Laura Terry’s architecture students look and learn during the building process.
1 / 6
The archery pavilion.
3 / 6
Laura Terry leads the charge in her Caterpillar tractor.
4 / 6
Students lay down cedar planks in preparation for the amphitheater.
5 / 6
The fully accessible amphitheater stage.
6 / 6
terry laura architecture students
Laura Terry’s architecture students look and learn during the building process.

As Laura Terry remembers it, her first visit to Camp Aldersgate in Little Rock, Arkansas, in August 2001 was an experience that instantly knocked her life onto a different course. Martha Jane Murray, a Little Rock architect who was the president of Camp Aldersgate’s board of directors at the time, had invited Terry, an assistant professor of architecture at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, to the camp to attend a design charette. The idea was to create a program that would put architecture students to work designing and building new facilities at the camp, which offers an eight-week session each summer for children with physical and developmental disabilities. “There’s no way that I could not have been involved,” Terry says, recalling her first glimpse of campers shooting through the trees on a zip line, giddily oblivious to their physical limitations. “I felt an obligation to be involved after being here. If I didn’t pursue it, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life.”

Taking a cue from Auburn University’s Rural Studio, where she had trained by building houses in the impoverished Alabama countryside, Terry and eight of her students installed themselves at Camp Aldersgate’s 120-acre campus at the west end of Little Rock in the summer of 2002. The camp had added archery to its program the year before, but the facility that had been hastily constructed for the sport was not set up to easily accommodate children of different ages and abilities. Using a $20,000 grant from the Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board, the students designed and built a 700-square-foot archery pavilion in a clearing amid the camp’s pine, oak, and hickory trees. A trip to the local salvage yard yielded a pair of old bicycles, a basketball backboard, and the lid from the trunk of an old Volkswagen Fox, which the students fashioned into shooting platforms that can be adjusted to any child’s height. A sloped corrugated roof was erected to shield the area from the unforgiving Arkansas summer sun.

The camp’s administrators were initially wary of having a group of college students working among the campers for weeks at a time at the height of the summer session. “For us it was sensitive,” says Sarah C. Wacaster, the camp’s executive director. “It was something new that we had never really thought of doing before.”

But the archery pavilion was a hit with the campers and talk quickly turned to Terry’s next project. The following summer, armed with a $14,000 grant from the University of Arkansas Women’s Giving Circle and $7,000 that was left over from the archery pavilion, Terry and her students got to work on an ambitious plan to design and build a 22-foot-high tree house for the camp. It wasn’t easy. It rained for most of June 2003, delaying the start of construction for a month. When the project ran about $6,000 over budget, Terry charged the difference to her credit card. At the end of 12 weeks of construction, the tree house was completed and connected to a dam on the banks of the camp’s lake by a 42-foot-long wheelchair-accessible bridge.

Terry returned to the camp in 2005 with a new group of students to tackle a simpler project. Aldersgate’s amphitheater was not fully accessible—the layout forced campers in wheelchairs to cluster at the front, away from their peers. In a month, Terry’s students designed and built a new amphitheater on the banks of the lake. The focal point is a 300-square-foot accessible stage, made of cedar. The concrete benches, each embossed with imprints of leaves from the site, are spaced so campers in wheelchairs can sit wherever they choose.

Though funding didn’t come through in 2006, Terry says she’d like to return to Aldersgate next summer to build several new accessible picnic tables. Terry and Wacaster are eager to maintain the relationship, which has given the camp three popular features while providing the architecture students hands-on experience.

“We started off a little skeptical, wondering what this might entail,” Wacaster says. “But now we just know that we’ll be blessed to have these projects. We know that [Terry] is mindful of our needs more than anything.”

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

french evolution paris daniel rozensztroch living area eames la chaise butterfly chair moroccan berber rug
A tastemaker brings his distinct vision to an industrial loft with a centuries-old pedigree.
February 07, 2016
senses touch products
The haptic impact can’t be underplayed. The tactility of a material—its temperature, its texture­—can make the difference between pleasure and discontent.
February 07, 2016
senses smell products
The nose knows: Though fleeting and immaterial, scent is the lifeblood of Proustian memories, both evoking and imprinting visceral associations.
February 06, 2016
design icon josef frank villa beer vienna
Josef Frank: Against Design, which runs through April 2016 at Vienna’s Austrian Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art, is a comprehensive study of the prolific architect, designer, and author.
February 06, 2016
senses sound products
From an alarm to a symphony, audio frequencies hold the power to elicit an emotional call-and-response.
February 06, 2016
Italian Apline home with double-height walls on one facade.
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
February 05, 2016
A built-in sofa with Design Tex upholstery marks the boundary between the two-level addition and the bungalow. Leading up to the master bedroom, a perforated metal staircase, lit from above, casts a Sigmar Polke–like shadow grid on the concrete floor.
From a minimalist Walter Gropius design to a curving sculptural stair, these six stairways run the gamut.
February 05, 2016
distant structure lakeside prefab norway facade stones green roof
Dwell has traveled all over the world, from Tasmania to Indonesia, to report on modern houses.
February 05, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment master bedroom atrium
Get ready for a weekend of rest with these sleepy, little cocoons.
February 05, 2016
lamp show 99 cent plus gallery 0
At Brooklyn's 99¢ Plus gallery, 30 artists and designers re-imagine the lamp in an illuminating light show.
February 04, 2016
Hidden storage stairwell with raw brass hardware
Having ample space to stow items is a daily struggle—peep these modern homes for some ideas on maximizing your square footage.
February 04, 2016
modern fairhaven beach house blackbutt eucalyptus living room Patricia Urquiola sofa
Whether it's along a coast in Australia or the French Alps, wood provides a natural touch in these interiors.
February 04, 2016
Glass and steel sculpture in Printemps store of Paris.
In the Paris' venerable Printemps department store, two Toronto-based firms were tasked with enlivening a new atrium and creating a unique experience for visitors. YabuPushelberg, partnering with UUfie, designed this stunning steel "sail" embedded with vibrant dichroic glass.
February 04, 2016
Monochromatic Master Bedroom in Copenhagen Townhouse
Whether it's to maximize limited light or create a soothing interior, these five projects go white in a big way.
February 04, 2016
EQ3 Assembly quilt by Kenneth LaVallee
The new Assembly collection from EQ3 celebrates up-and-coming figures in Canadian design. Discover this newly appointed class, which debuted at Toronto's Interior Design Show, here.
February 03, 2016
The Greenhouses of Half Moon Bay
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most viral design and architecture shots of the week.
February 03, 2016
Deck of Australian addition to Edwardian home.
A 1,500-square-foot home in Melbourne welcomes a modern black and white kitchen, dining, and living area.
February 03, 2016
open plan concrete home in japan
Embracing the organic, imperfect material, these raw concrete surfaces are a step up from exposed brick.
February 03, 2016
Renovated DC Row House loft space with Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair.
The classic designer's signature and comfortable forms continue to be popular in homes today.
February 03, 2016
Zinc-roofed cabin France.
An architect builds an energy-efficient home near one of France’s most popular pilgrimage sites.
February 03, 2016
1973 Palm Springs home
Made for casual design enthusiasts and Palm Springs connoisseurs alike, Unseen Midcentury Desert Modern offers a peek into 51 buildings—some not open to the public—in that Southern California mecca of modernism. Begun in 2008 by photographer Dan Chavkin, the book is set for release this February 9th and will be available on Amazon and at multiple venues of Modernism Week in Palm Springs, February 11 - 21. Here we preview some of its images.
February 03, 2016
Millennial concept home with an outdoor living area
A concept home aims to reflect the requests of the Millennial market.
February 03, 2016
The two twelve-by-sixteen-foot bedrooms, directly above a comparable pair on the first floor, feature a glass transom that follows the pitch of the roof. “The stair and railings were very simple,” Depardon observes. “We added a bit of design, with panels
Skylights needn't be simple overhead daylighting; sometimes they can truly define a room.
February 03, 2016
Modern small space Rhode Island cottage with landscaping and cedar cladding
Surrounded by nature, these cottages are tranquil retreats from the city.
February 03, 2016
The couple kept original touches, including the arch.
Historic archways belie these contemporary homes with physical reminders of each structure's storied past.
February 03, 2016
modern guesthouse in norway with angular facade and cutaway patio with spruce cladding and ikea chair
These houses make room for nature, not the other way around.
February 02, 2016
Modern kitchen with yellow sectioned walls and monochrome appliances
Whether it's a splash of color or bold strokes, this collection of interiors brightens up these homes.
February 02, 2016
Rust-washed concrete wall in Moscow apartment renovation.
This 590-square-foot apartment was stripped down to admit sunlight and dramatically reveal forgotten surfaces.
February 02, 2016
Nendo's collection of objects inspired by Star Wars
In a galaxy not so far away, Japanese studio Nendo has released a versatile collection of objects inspired by classic Star Wars characters.
February 02, 2016