Montana State University

MSU architecture students to build picnic pavilion at popular Hyalite location

March 24, 2009 -- By Carol Schmidt, MSU News Service

MSU architecture students Matt Aune, left, and Chelsie Lough describe the design for a new picnic shelter that will be built this summer at a popular Hyalite recreation area. MSU architecture students designed the pavilion, and will help build it this summer in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and the Gallatin Empire Lions Club. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.   High-Res Available

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
A group of architecture students at Montana State University are putting the finishing touches on the design for a picnic pavilion that will be built this summer near the popular Hyalite Reservoir Dam.

The pavilion, which is a joint project of the MSU School of Architecture, the U.S. Forest Service and the Gallatin Empire Lions Club, will be built at the Hyalite Day Use Picnic Area. It is located at the parking lot on the west side of Hyalite Reservoir Dam.

"This is a very active site," said Bruce Wrightsman, MSU professor of architecture and director of the design-build studio for senior architecture students working on the project.

The students have designed a simple but modern 20 foot by 50 foot structure that will be made of stone, steel and timber with a corrugated steel roof. Wrightsman said flexibility has been the keyword for the design, which will accommodate groups of varied sizes ranging from a few to more than 60 people. It will include two cooking areas and a warming area. The pavilion is designed for public use, including private groups and occasions.

"The great thing about this project is its visibility," Wrightsman said. "It has given us an opportunity to think how this key recreational facility will be used for the next 20-50 years."

The idea for the pavilion, and MSU's involvement with it, came from Jane Ruchman, Gallatin National Forest landscape architect and developed recreation program manager. Ruchman said that the site where the pavilion will be built already is popular with the public and becoming more so now that the road to Hyalite Reservoir is plowed during the winter. For some time she had noticed a need for a covered picnic shelter there, in part because it is a very open but popular spot where people first arrive at the reservoir.

"There are no shade trees or shelters immediately around the parking area because it serves as an emergency overflow area for the dam," Ruchman said. However, she said the pavilion will be located away from and above the overflow area.

"In middle of summer, it can get pretty hot there," Ruchman said.

Ruchman applied for and received about $42,000 in Forest Service funding to build a covered picnic area. Hoping to maximize the funds, and recalling a similar pavilion built several years ago by MSU architecture students at Pine Creek in the Paradise Valley, she approached Steve Juroszek, co-interim director of the School of Architecture, with her ideas. Juroszek thought the project would be exciting and provide practical career lessons for the students.

"It will be a building that will be well used by the public and will provide a real-life learning experience for the students," Ruchman said.

Juroszek asked Wrightsman to direct the design-build studio and five seniors signed up for the project. Site and activity research began last fall. The students designing the pavilion are: Matt Aune of Helena, Jordan Burbach of Glendive, Danny Hudson of Boulder, Colo., and Courtney Schuler and Chelsie Lough of Bozeman.

The group presented two preliminary designs to Ruchman and other representatives of the Forest Service and Lion's Club in February. After their feedback, the group refined one concept and again presented it for comment in early March. Then the students spent their spring break hammering out design details and working on construction drawings. Aune said while the students are getting credits for the projects, "it's a lot more work than expected. But it is worth it.

"I think the biggest thing about being involved is we're getting experience working with a real client, going through the entire process of designing and building," Aune said. "It's a real-world challenge and the location is great. We get to spend time building up Hyalite, which is a perk." The students will also help build the structure this summer, recruiting other architecture students to help.

Ruchman said one key issue in the design is to make it both practical and vandal resistant.

"This facility will be built by MSU, the Gallatin Empire Lions Club and potentially other interested partners from the community," Ruchman said. "We hope there will be some real ownership and people will be using it and loving it and not vandalizing it."

Wrightsman said that Bozeman's unpredictable spring weather may pose timing challenges.

"We hope to get up there in mid-May," he said. "But you never know about the snow and moisture in the area. Basically, we will have 12 weeks to build."

He said the students hope to get a jump on the weather by fabricating some elements of the pavilion in the School of Architecture woodshop this spring then transporting the pieces to the site when the weather allows.

Wrightsman and Ruchman said now that the design is being finalized, the project is working with the Gallatin Empire Lions Club and other members in the community to find donations of time, materials and resources to build the structure. For instance, Zach Anderson from the Montana Masonry Institute and Ty Monks, a structural engineer with Nishkian Monks in Bozeman, already have volunteered time and expertise to the project. Ruchman is hoping other members of the community will step forward to help.

"The masonry work on the pavilion will be beautiful," Ruchman said. "It will be very character defining."

As for Aune, he said he is looking forward to driving up to Hyalite in about 20 years and seeing the structure that he and his colleagues help to design and build.

"In 20 years I'm sure I will be proud that our school and everyone involved did a good job on it," Aune said. "Seeing people enjoying still, would be great."

Members of the community wishing to become involved in the project should contact Wrightsman at 994-4240 or Ruchman at 587-6701.


To learn more about the MSU School of Architecture, its students and programs, see the following stories:

MSU architecture students look to the past for new ideas for Old Faithful:

Bridge competition:

Hawaiian project:

Khumbu Climbing School

Architecture students' humanitarian project breaks Guinness record:

Retro master's degree

Bruce Wrightsman (406) 994-4220,