Westminster Hiking Cabin: Connecting Students to Nature

The Westminster Campus is set on a sprawling 180 acres, and is located in Atlanta, Georgia. Among the resources open to students, faculty, and alumni is a trail that weaves through the campus. This trail runs through a forest, and includes a stream.  For my architecture class project I identified the need for a hiking cabin to be located along the trail to increase the safety and student use of this resource. The following links support the need for students to interact with the outdoors.

Why Kids Need to Spend Time in Nature

In the early 1980s, a Harvard University biologist named Edward O. Wilson proposed a theory called biophilia: that humans are instinctively drawn towards their natural surroundings. Many 21st century parents, however, would question this theory, as they watch their kids express a clear preference for sitting on a couch in front of a screen over playing outside.



This structure would create a place for storing medical supplies, include a bathroom, a telephone, and a place to go on the trail. 

In addition to providing emergency supplies and making the trail safer, this cabin 

would also serve to encourage interaction with nature, and healthy lifestyles in general. This building would provide students with a place to go on the trail, and thus increase student use of this resource. It would also allow teachers to incorporate a different sort of classroom experience by bringing students to the cabin to work on science projects or research.

Site Analysis:

The site for my project is a clearing on the trail that is located next to a small river. It does not have access to electricity, plumbing, etc, and is also a flood plain.

Initial Bubble Diagram:

This was the original brainstorm sketch for the rooms that would be included in my final project. The design has changed pretty drastically since then. The cabin is comprised of two parts: the main cabin and a smaller room located on the river.

These drawings are the site plan and floor plan for my project and communicate more clearly the exact location of the building, as well as the different spaces of the cabin.

Initial sketches:


These are the elevation drawings that show what my original ideas for how the cabin would look were.


As part of the design process, I used hot glue and cardboard to create a physical model of my design to finetune the details and see whether or not my ideas were actually plausible.


Revised Site Plan and Floor Plan:



















After researching the various resources available in Georgia, I decided on using these for my project. They are reflected in my Sketch Up Model below.

Sketch Up Model:




Image Sources:

Liberty Cedar Specialty Wood Products

Lifestyle Flooring

Northwoods Figured Wood

Mohawk Group

The Stone Store



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  1. April 27, 2018 by Sydney Martin

    Catherine! I love your project! You accounted for the floodplain, found a place that has room for it that is in the middle section of the trail, and designed a great building for the space. I think it would be a great place to have medical help, a phone, and some relaxing places to sit. Have you proposed this idea to the school? Because I think that this is a genuinely good idea. One thing I thought about though was that if someone needed medical help, how would they get up those stairs since it’s in a floodplain? Is there a ramp or something or maybe have a phone at the base of the stairs so they wouldn’t have to travel far to call for help? Great job Catherine!

    • April 28, 2018 by Catherine.Wang

      Hey Sydney, thank you for the kind words! I’ve spoken to teachers about this project in the process of designing it, so we’ll see if anything come out of it! I love your idea about putting a telephone closer to the outside, and it would be a great addition. The ramp is an interesting idea, but it may not be the most effective. If someone was for example injured, I feel like having a telephone on the outside of the cabin would be easier to access than getting into the cabin through a ramp or staircase. Thanks for the suggestions!

  2. April 27, 2018 by Rachel Dauby

    Hi Catherine- super clear research here. Your sketch-up rendering is super clear, and you seem to have put a lot of thought into your materials and site. This seems like an important cause for students in Georgia, you should take it further!

  3. April 28, 2018 by Annie Ballard

    I love your project! I could totally see this being part of the trail and I think it would be extremely useful as people all around our community could use it! Great ideas!

  4. April 28, 2018 by Annabel.Edwards

    hey Catherine! I love your project idea. I live in a huge city, so it’s always hard for me to find some actual nature around, but I know if my school offered this I’d 100% use it. I think you did an awesome job laying out the plans for the cabin and also emphasizing and explaining why its needed. Do you think kids at your school would use it often during or after the school day and/or do you think it’d become more popular for teachers to use as a resource in their classes?

    • April 28, 2018 by Catherine.Wang

      Hi Annabel, it would hopefully be available for students to use all day, but chances are more students would have the time to walk the trail after school. In addition, there is a program at my school called Discovery, and as I was interviewing teachers during the process of creating my design, they expressed interest in being able to use it to create a different kind of outdoor experience. Students also expressed that they would enjoy learning in that kind of environment, so I do think it would be a popular resource. Thanks for checking out my project!

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