Fortlandia – Capillary Action

February 2022   Austin, TX


  • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Key Personnel

Key Points

A temporary fort installation that created opportunities for multiple kinds of play while telling the story of underground tree roots through the use of sustainable materials.

Discovering Nature Through Play

What’s more fun than uncovering the hidden world of tree roots? Running along them too! Our fort allowed children and adults of all ages to experience how entangled nature can be.

Something for Everyone

We don’t design just for humans. The fort became a habitat for various critters at the Wildflower Center and was used by birds as source material for their nests.

Sustainable Materials

Coir logs are made of hydrophobic coconut husk and are typically used for erosion and sediment control on construction sites. After the fort was de-installed, the logs were re-used at the center to protect the nearby aquifer.

Image courtesy of the Wildflower Center

Fortlandia is an outdoor exhibition intended to inspire appreciation for the natural environment through creative discovery and nature-based play for all ages.

Asakura Robinon was invited to design and construct a fort that embodies these values while considering the use of innovative and sustainable materials and construction methods.

Our fort, Capillary Action, invited individuals to scramble, run, crawl, scoot and shimmy through the hidden world of tree roots by bringing them to the surface. Coir logs formed the bulk of the play elements and represented the underground roots of the trees. The logs intertwined and tangled with one another to create opportunities for creative and active play while mimicking the interactions made by real-life tree roots.

Image courtesy of the Wildflower Center

Our goal was to create an installation that had a positive impact throughout its life cycle at the Center.

Coir logs were selected because they are completely biodegradable, and are composed of a waste product left over from the coconut industry. Over the course of the installation, the coir logs had created a unique microclimate underneath them, which fostered the growth of mycorrhiza hyphae, and created a home for earthworms, beetles, and other organisms. At the end of the exhibition, coir logs that remained in good condition were used to protect nearby critical environmental features from stormwater sheet flow.

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