Camp Winnataska – a nonprofit, faith-based summer camp east of Birmingham in St. Clair County – has been providing boys and girls with memorable experiences since 1918. Today’s campers and future generations are sure to enjoy the new cabins designed by Birmingham-based Blackmon Rogers Architects.
Four new cabins and a bath house are replacing older ones. The new cabins are for the youngest campers during the summer camp season. The cabins are also available for use by other groups during the off-season and are scheduled to be completed by the end of August.
Macknally Land Design led the master planning effort for the camp’s Chico Hill area. Blackmon Rogers Architects worked with Macknally Land Design to create the composition of two cabin buildings that share a bath house, which are arranged along the hillside to define a common green.
“Our design goal was to create a fun and exciting mini-campus for the younger kids and their leaders,” David Blackmon explains. “The buildings have to be durable and low maintenance. They are heavily used throughout the summer with new groups rotating weekly, but during the remaining eight to nine months they see little use.”
Cabins are arranged in pairs with a shared, central bath house. These clusters of three buildings are sited along the hillside to define a central green space where children can hang out and play, Blackmon continues.
Design inspiration came from the original Chico cabins and traditional southern vernacular buildings like Waverley Mansion in West Point, Mississippi that features an oversized octagonal- shaped cupola. Blackmon points out that the cabins are designed to utilize natural convection to cool the occupants.
“While the large roof provides shade, its steep slope and pyramidal form encourage warm air to rise and exit through the cupola,” he explains. “This draws cooler air in through the screened windows creating a cooling breeze. We added a large powered fan in the cupola to enhance this affect and provide additional control.”
Designing for a client like Camp Winnataska presents specific considerations. Blackmon Rogers Architects has designed several buildings for the camp during the past several years, and this enduring relationship has provided a good understanding of what is valued by the board, the staff and the campers, says Blackmon.
Birmingham Boy Scout Commissioner Elwyn Ballard and his wife Florence discovered the site in 1914 and were captivated by the waterfalls and Kelly Creek that are central to the camp today. Winnataska means “Land of the Laughing Water” in native Creek.
“Like all of our clients, the board has to be good stewards of their resources,” Blackmon notes. “We’ve worked hard to listen to the client’s needs and desires and design buildings that offer real value in the quality of the design, initial cost and long-term maintenance cost. We hope these new cabins are loved by the campers and staff for the next 100 years.”
Image 1- The cabins utilize natural convection to cool the occupants. The roof provides shade, and its steep slope and pyramidal form encourages the warm air to exit through the cupola. A large fan in the cupola enhances this affect.
Image 2- The original cabins on the property provided design inspiration, along with traditional southern vernacular buildings such as the circa 1838 Waverley mansion in West Point, Mississippi.
Image 3- The cabins are arranged in pairs with a shared, central bath house. The cabins are designed to be durable and low maintenance for use year-round.
Image 4- Macknally Land Design led the master planning effort for Camp Winnataska’s Chico Hill area. The plan includes an amphitheater, play areas, a rope course and other amenities.
*Article Written by Jessica Armstrong and Images courtesy of Blackmon Rogers Architects