Passerine Pavilion

Wells Overlook Road, Lawrence, Kansas (USA) 2021

University of Kansas (USA)

Perched at the crest of a ridge, the Passerine Pavilion at Wells Overlook Park appears as a silhouette starting to detach from the earth. It has a feeling of lightness, like a grassland bird poised to leap from the slope into the expansive prairie landscape. The overlook’s upturned wings and spine slope backward toward its tail, resting on four pairs of slender steel columns. The reclaimed feather-patterned, brushed aluminium road sign shingle roof provides shade and protection from rain. A low, angling, steel-framed gabion wall contains interlocking stacked limestones. A break in the wall acts as a threshold, looking north, into a meadow of tallgrasses and wildflowers beyond. The wall itself, capped in glue-laminated wood, guides visitors to the east, moving obliquely across the ridge. While the hill slopes downward and the timber roof slopes upward, a wooden deck projects into the open air, resulting in a sensation of rising above the landscape. Along two sides of the deck, facing north and east, guardrails transition into a series of wayside panels that interpret the region’s geography and history. The arrangement affords all visitors, regardless of their mobility, an experience of beholding the Wakarusa River Valley.


Douglas County Public Works


Local community members

Great Plains Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Center

Douglas County Heritage Conservation Council Program

Master Gardeners of Douglas County group


Chad Kraus


2020 cohort of the Dirt Works Studio, University of Kansas

Research question

The project explores strategies for creating a universally-accessible scenic overlook structure in the context of a topographically-varied site, as we well as publicly-accessible and culturally-relevant interpretations of the landscape as an educational tool.

11-50, Architecture, Client-funded, Collaboration, Commissioned, Curricular, Kansas Univ., Months, Permanent, Students with tutor, Undergraduate, USA