The work of Kay Edge, Edward Becker, and Edge’s ARCH 5715 lab (spring 2018) on the New River Train Observation Tower recently gained recognition at the AIA Blue Ridge Design Awards. The chapter aims to recognize exemplary design by practitioners and students within the last eight years. Project submissions were judged based on the solution to the problem presented and whether they were worthy of an award of excellence in architecture and designWithin his almost fifteen year career, Kevin has demonstrated his leadership skills as a member of the AIA Blue Ridge leadership team and as the faculty co-leader of the Malawi Studio. In the classroom, he strives to introduce his students at Virginia Tech to real-world scenarios and community focused experiential learning opportunities.

Project Overview: The project for a train-viewing observation tower behind the Glencoe Mansion in Radford, Virginia is one piece of a comprehensive tourism development plan undertaken by the city tourism department. To conform with the client’s brief that the tower needed to look both backwards and forward –relate to the city’s railroad history while also showcasing the city’s movement into the 21st century – the team selected an emerging timber technology, hardwood cross-laminated timber (CLT), as the primary construction material due to a variety of material advantages. Because CLT is not easily accessible in the region, particularly hardwood CLT, the team not only undertook the design of the observation tower itself, but also sourced locally grown Yellow Poplar and coordinated the material development and construction logistics of locally-pressed hardwood CLT panels… The cutting-edge project establishes a series of benchmarks for mass timber construction in Virginia and the United States:

  1. The first project globally to use prefabricated, hardwood CLT modules
  2. The first project in the United States to use prefabricated CLT modules
  3. The first project in the United States to use structural hardwood CLT as a building enclosure system
  4. The first project in Virginia and the Southeastern United States to use hardwood CLT

A diverse team of project collaborators and consultants including architects, sustainable biomaterial experts, structural and civil engineers, custom fabricators, and university students, among others, were involved in the project… Architecture students began the project in design studio with two architecture faculty being responsible for design development, construction details, logistics, coordination of multiple consultants, material acquisition and budget.