Like their peers of days gone by, CAP students will be leaving their mark on the campus footprint by designing and building an interactive learning site for future generations.

Japanese Teahouse

For nearly thirty years, the Tea Garden, a Japanese teahouse, hugged the south side of the architecture building. The structure lent an air of culture and mystery to an otherwise brutalist landscape full of concrete steps and pedestals. Conceived by Bruce Meyer, professor of architecture, the Teahouse of the Autumn Festival was used for cultural events by students at Ball State and the Indiana Academy. As the project is chronicled in the Drawings and Documents Archive, during the design-build project, multiple studio classes learned about the Japanese culture and building styles by constructing the Teahouse. After decades of use, a fire, and vandalism the teahouse began to show its age and was closed, finally being removed from the grounds two years ago.


In conjunction with the university’s centennial events, the Dean of the college, Dave Ferguson, secured permission for students to design a new learning laboratory in the area once occupied by the iconic Tea Garden. First-year instructor Colby Gray, MLA 2010, was asked to lead the project. In fall 2018, students in a Landscape Architecture Materials and Structures course began the first steps in that process by exploring circulation, programmatic uses, materials, furnishings, and lighting. By spring 2019, students in a Landscape Architecture Design-Build Course synthesized 12 site alternatives into one collective schematic design that maximized the strength of the final design, addressing functional requirements while promoting new discoveries.

Colby Gray with Students

During the 2019 spring semester, students in a Landscape Architecture Design Build Course synthesized 12 site alternatives, maximizing their strengths during a schematic design-phase that addressed new discoveries and functional requirements.


To aid schematic design development, students explored various exterior site materials and fabrication technologies. Students collaborated with many labs/studios across campus, including the Rapid Prototyping Lab, Marilyn K. Glick Center for Glass, Ceramics Studio, CAP Fabrication Lab/Woodshop, Construction Management Lab, and Building Material Samples Collection.
“You can look at things on the computer, but actually seeing how it all works and fits together, [it] better educates you,” says Alexandra Brown, a fifth-year LA student from Schererville. Brown opted to take the design-build elective that explored the proposed design alternatives in a hands-on manner that included material mock-ups and prototyping. Their experiments with glass, concrete, plastics, metal, ceramics, and wood informed their ideas for designing a learning garden. As Brant Hile comments, “I grew up working for a landscape contractor back home, so I’ve always been a hands-on, boots-on-the-ground type.” Hile, a third-year Landscape Architecture major and construction management minor from Kendallville, took part in both the fall and spring studios because the real-world experience appealed to him. Instead of cramming for finals in the library, the landscape architecture students were using CNC routers, 3D printers, drill drivers, band saws, shovels, and wheelbarrows to build material mock-ups and prototypes of their designs. Insights from the material studies and direct construction experience helped finalize the schematic development of the site.


Student schematic design-phase

Student’s grading and layout plan with illustrative graphics and 3D models.

Hands-on construction, exploration, and material studies capture the essence of a student’s experience. This new interactive area will capture those elements to provide opportunities for visitors and students to experiment with construction techniques in a controlled and elegant manner. The interactive area will include a series of learning artifacts, including three prime learning resources: “the wall,” the “kiosk,” and the “tier.” Each tier resource teaching concepts related to the quality and character of materials, surveying, and plantings. Concrete plinths will function as small stages for short-term structural assemblies, fabrication, and sculptural artwork. Exposed “markers” and piers will reveal site engineering constructs and non-material environmental concepts, while also serving as take-offs for large scale structural assemblies. The grading and layout plan is complete, along with illustrative graphics for select site learning artifacts. Discussions are underway about construction scheduling and funding. All faculty, students, and alumni at Ball State University will have the opportunity to showcase work and can collaborate with the Landscape Architecture department in building out the area over the next 10-15 years. Contact project manager Colby Gray for more information about the program.