Building a Better Block - Outsiders Take a Field Day

Thirty days, four sheets of plywood, six piano hinges and five landscape architects. The result: a replicable, easily assembled, deconstructable, and shippable shade structure endearingly referred to as the “Cootie Catcher,” which took home the Best in Show and People’s Choice awards at Field Day 2017 last month. The first design competition hosted by the Better Block Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit based in Oak Cliff, FD17 posed this challenge: build a pavilion that incorporates seating, lighting, and shade, is made of off-the-shelf materials, is capable of being produced by the average person, and can be easily disassembled and flat-packed. Teams were given 30 days, a budget of $250 with the ability to contribute/fundraise up to $750 more, and four hours on a CNC router to realize designs that were “aspirational but functional.”

The team at Studio Outside made it its missive to limit construction waste (plywood scraps), minimize cost over the base budget, and thereby produce a design intrinsically simple but still architecturally unique. We sketched, talked, sketched some more, and did a little bit of origami -- albeit amateur -- and thus, the “cootie catcher” concept was born.

We cut 4” x 8” rectangles from chipboard to understand the constraints of typical 4’x8’ plywood sheets and mocked-up iterative versions of the final design, where modular “wings” array from a central triangular bench. The design was submitted as a vector file to Better Block, the plywood was cut, and the pieces were hauled back to our studio garage. Now we had to make sure it stood. Two evenings were spent assembling the bench base, applying the piano hinges to the wings, and making sure the structure could support its own weight.

Final hinge application with the aid of Kent’s headlights.

Final hinge application with the aid of Kent’s headlights.

After a few coats of paint and some final touches, including branding the sO logo onto to the bench, the wings were collapsed flat and hauled to the field on construction day. With a little help in the form of some coffee and donuts, the structure was assembled on site in 20 minutes. The team took a little siesta and regrouped on site for the field party which commenced at 6pm. We look forward to working with Better Block in the future!