Thursday, December 1, 2016

Camps 'N Codes

Take a moment, close your eyes, and paint a picture in your mind of your childhood summer camp. Can you see it? Little rustic cabins, a fire ring in the forest, a wooden dock with canoes tethered to it, and an overall sense of magic adrift in the air. Now let me ask, did you remember to include the fire suppression systems, accessibility features, and the correct number of plumbing fixtures? I didn’t think so. While these elements don’t contribute to the overall allure of camp, they are all crucial to the construction of camp structures. This post kick starts our ‘Camps ‘N Codes’ series about Building Codes and Regulations and how they affect summer camps.  After the break is an introduction to the series. Be sure to check back over the next few months as we debut our ‘Case Study’ posts where we dive into our previous projects and discuss how we have handled camp specific code issues in the past.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Droning on about Unmanned Aerial Systems

The DJI - Phantom 3 Advanced

There might not be a more exciting and buzzworthy area of commercial technological advancement than that of the small Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) platforms; commonly referred to as “drones”.  In the last ten years, advancement in radio controlled (RC) technology and many of the inner-working components of commercial drones has seen exponential growth and development, which has truly opened the door for the general public to assist in the exploration of the role(s) that small UAS will have in the future of unmanned flight.

People often forget how far drone technology has come since the early years of unmanned piloting. It’s hard to believe, but unmanned aerial systems were first developed in the 1850s!  Largely used during wartime for military reconnaissance, early platforms involved slow moving balloons, tethered kites, and later, remotely piloted planes.

Civil War era Balloon "Intrepid" and Kettering Aerial Torpedo "Bug"

Thankfully, the desire to push boundaries was not lost due to the limited capability of these primitive drone examples. The continued innovation in the design and technology of unmanned piloting has ushered in a new era of functions and uses – specifically for non-governmental or non-military applications.  Accessibility to more affordable parts and manufacturing has made commercial drone production economically viable for a wider range of companies.  So you might be wondering, what does all of this have to do with camp planning and architecture?  

Well, even when unmanned piloting was first being developed over 160 years ago, the creators had a particular idea in mind:  how can we provide a perspective that few people have seen before?  This might be the most significant benefit that commercial drones present to the greater public.  As is often the case in large scale architectural planning and design projects, it is difficult to provide the client (and also the community at large) with a wide enough perspective of a site that illustrates just how complex and involved a given project is.

Specifically, as it relates to camp architecture; property size and accessibility to remote areas on some properties can present unique challenges – not least of which being difficult terrain that can make documentation time-consuming, uncomfortable and possibly even dangerous. 

So what are some of the tangible benefits that drones can provide to the camp architecture market?  With the advent of inexpensive and easy-to-fly commercial drones, tasks such as aerial photography, surveying and mapping, and videography can be completed with ease...and with a single operator.  Other industries such as agriculture, movie and film production, and professional photography have already begun utilizing drone platforms for business purposes.

Before commercial drones were really a viable option, the best way to capture a true bird’s-eye perspective was through the use of small airplanes.  However, this type of resource is expensive and often unreliable due to the higher altitudes and higher speeds with which the aircraft must operate…not to mention having to hire a trained, professional pilot to get the job done!

Downtown Brevard, NC

This is not the case with many of the off-the-shelf drone models available today, as they are easily maneuverable and incorporate an intuitive, smart-phone interface along with savvy, video-game like controls that most people can learn quickly.  Some of these same drone platforms also come fitted with the latest GPS technology that can be used to generate a mapped flight path through the use of “waypoints”.  This could be a great tool for capturing a consistent, repeating bird’s-eye view of larger construction projects, and for generating time-lapse photography or video segments to illustrate the before and after conditions of a particular site.

Domokur's own Stefan Young making a test flight

Domokur Architects is always looking to the future, and searching for new and improved ways to enhance the client experience.  We are thrilled to announce that we will officially take to the skies with our own commercial drone platform, with services available beginning in the summer of 2016!  Stay tuned - and in the meantime, check out this preliminary training video we recently recorded.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Light The Night Walk

The Domokur Architects Team is dusting off their walking shoes as they prepare for the Light The Night Walk on October 18th at Cuyahoga Falls River Square. 

2015 marks the fourth year that Domokur Architects is participating in the walk and raising money to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Click here to learn more about Light The Night and how to get involved.

We would love your support and encouragement as we participate this year. 

Thank you!

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Official Domokur Architects Coloring Book!

Domokur Architects turned forty this year! In case you missed the party at our Akron headquarters this past weekend you can get in on the fun by downloading the party favor below. The team made a 40th Anniversary edition coloring book featuring several Domokur projects! Pictures from the event coming soon!

CLICK HERE to download the Domokur Architects Coloring Book:

Happy Coloring!

...and remember, coloring is not a 'kids only' activity! So break out those Basic Eights!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Harmonizing Architecture and Nature: The Art of Feng Shui

written by | Kyle Peppard

In the camping experience it is not only important that people are comfortable in the cabin where they sleep, but also that the cabin is comfortable on the site in which it rests.

Camping has always been about social interactions, and creating lasting memories, but it is also an opportunity to be surrounded by nature at its purest and most undisturbed. Though the addition of architecture to a natural environment can sometimes taint it, a respectful and appropriate integration of the two can actually enhance experiences by creating harmony between the built environment and its natural surroundings. One philosophy for creating this synergy is Feng Shui, an idea thousands of years old.

Feng Shui involves creating a natural energy through clever building practices that range from manipulation of building and site geometry to a very specific placement of interior furnishings, but is primarily built upon the belief that all of natural existence falls into one of the five elements: Water, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Wood. In nature each of these elements serves their own purpose and has a direct effect in some way on each of the others, and the natural energy created by these interactions is known as Chi. Feng Shui takes these relationships and arranges the placement of the elements into a perfectly balanced cycle that will allow for the maximum flow of Chi. This cycle is formed by placing these elements along a path around the building. Each material is to be placed in between one other material that would strengthen it, as well as one that would weaken it theoretically keeping the materials following a natural order, such as fire being fed by wood but tamed by sand. However, it is also very important within this arrangement that if the interaction between elements is of a purely destructive nature they be placed opposite one another, such as the way water will douse a flame with no benefit to itself or metal will slice through wood without gain.  When a building supports this cycle, then the building itself can be harmonious with nature.

So what could all of this possibly mean for camping? It means that the feeling of true connection between people and nature doesn’t have to stop when going inside. When Feng Shui is properly applied, shelter is no longer separate from the five elements. In the design of cabins, dining halls or any other camp building the elements can be incorporated so that the architecture is a continuation of its site, and a natural environment is formed within the building heightening the essence of the camping experience. When attempting to set up a camp building following principles of Feng Shui it is best to start with site geometry. Feng Shui believes that certain things help carry existing Chi into a building, such as a road that passes by or goes directly towards the entry, or a body of water that lies in front of the entry. The next step would be to attract that energy into the building by avoiding jagged or complex geometry and providing a large and inviting entry wall. Lastly the Chi needs to be properly hosted within the building which is where the very specific use of material is to be incorporated. The first application can be through building materials and layout by making decisions such as placing a wooden entry porch waterfront with the building’s back wall being stone. The process could then be taken further by using wood planks on the interior entry wall, and oppose it with a fireplace and metal screen. As various furnishings are placed in the interior according to the rules of Feng Shui the cycle becomes stronger and creates a new home for positive Chi energy.

Feng Shui is nothing new to camping, and some Chi savvy campers always make sure to arrange their tent site according to its rules. Some of those same campers are gravitating towards BubbleTree tents by French designer Pierre Stephane Dumas. These tents were designed with Feng Shui in mind adopting soft rounded geometry with a large and open transparent entry bubble in order to strategically attract Chi. However, due to the limitations of the temporary shelter and a lack of materiality it is still up to the camper to place the tent and their personal belongings according to the principles of Feng Shui. Unlike these tents, camp design is not bound to these limitations and provides a unique opportunity to plan out and build in Feng Shui providing the experience to all campers, and creating a structure that is meant as an addition to the natural environment.

While it may be true that there is no substitute for the great outdoors, by applying the principles of Feng Shui we can create a positive relationship between the elements that exist and the elements we design.


Photo Credits (From Top)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Domokur Architects has a NEW Camp Design Brochure

This brochure focuses on our unique experience and history with the camp community. We have worked with over 400 camps throughout the United States. From seasonal resident camps to year-round training and retreat centers, basic shelters to a whole camp, a few acres to an entire mountain, updating an existing facility to designing a brand new one, we’ve done it all. Our team has over 50 years of combined experience working with every type of organization associated with the camping industry. Our clients include the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, YMCA, JCC, Easter Seals, medically based camps and religiously affiliated groups of all faiths and denominations.

Keep exploring Domokur Architects HERE.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Going The Distance

Green River Preserve’s journey to connect kids with nature

Cordwood Cottage at GRP
"We have to go further" says Executive Director Missy Schenck of Green River Preserve (GRP), a 3,400 acre private wildlife preserve in Tuxedo NC. Before I tell you about where they are going next, let me first point out a few highlights that are #happeningnow. GRP was founded in 1987 as a nonprofit summer camp to connect kids with nature. Through their unique mentor program, campers hike each morning with naturalist guides. One tradition at camp called the "grand slam" includes seeing a bear, a venomous snake, a turkey, and a deer all on a single hike, a rarity which occurs only a handful of times a summer. In a world where it is estimated that 50% of kids born this year will never see the Milky Way (See our post Creating Awe at Camp), it really got me thinking how truly a unique nature experience this is for the kids. Not only does the site include the vast wildlife preserve, it also shares a border with DuPont State Forest, creating the perfect setting to witness a "grand slam"! From the start, GRP has been connecting kids with nature. They have created several outreach programs such as SEE, Muddy Sneakers and Kale.

SEE (School of Environmental Education) is a residential field trip program where schools travel to Green River Preserve for an educational experiences outside of the classroom.

Muddy Sneakers is a separate non-profit organization funded primarily through private donations, grants, and foundations, the outdoor education outreach to schools local to GRP. 5th grade programs from neighboring school counties spend 12 day-long trips connecting with nature in their own backyard.

KALE (Kids Agricultural Learning Experience) is a hands on learning experience based off of GRP's farm.

Even with these existing programs, GRP is still thinking about what is next. Conceived as a response to the proposed No Child Left Inside Act of 2013, "Camp to Go" is GRP's next outreach program.

Congress finds that “Children and young adults are increasingly disconnected from the natural world around them, spending less time outside playing, exploring, and learning. Play and learning in nature is important to the intellectual, social, and physical development of youth.” Read more at

With the No Child Left Inside Act back up for discussion in 2015, camps partnering with schools could become more critical than ever, creating a demand for programs such as Camp to Go. The Camp-School Partnership Survey, conducted by the ACA in 2010, found that there was still much room for improvements between camp and school partnerships. The study found that “Over 88 percent of the camps were not partnering with school districts on educational reform grants or programs, and 90 percent of the camps were not involved with any Title 1, Title 2, or Department of Education programs.” For more statistics, read the article here

While the most common partnership with schools includes a science based curriculum, the article continues to suggest that camps seek new ways to connect with schools, such as partnering with existing "Youth in Government" programs. This reminded me of programing at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly. On a site visit last summer I got to see the Youth Conference on National Affairs in full swing.

This is a great example of programming that can be created at your camp to promote partnering with schools. Whether it is youth in government, hands on physics, or nature studies, there are variety of programming opportunities waiting to create lasting partnerships between schools and summer camps nationwide. At its core, camp is about youth development. Partnering with schools is yet another way that camps can positively impact today's youth.