Another Design Experiment . October 21, 2015

Documenting the Location & Land of The Kansas Project

When you think of the beautiful, awe-inspiring, humbling weather of Tornado Alley, your mind probably drifts upward, with thoughts of those big skies and eclipsing storms that the Plains are so famous for. Of course, this is why we chose Barber County, Kansas, as the location at which to design and build a weather-centric dwelling with a goal to foster a more symbiotic relationship between people and the elements. And indeed, as The Kansas Project advances, there will be no shortage of consideration given to all that comes from the sky. But for now we’ll start at the ground floor – so to speak – with a look at the land and location of the site itself.

The Kansas Project site: at the juncture of colliding air masses in the heart of Tornado Alley. Image (adapted) by The American Museum of Natural History.

The site of the Kansas Project is 680 acres of pasture, meadows and buttes, nestled in the rugged Gypsum Hills of South Central Kansas. It is about an hour and a half drive southwest of Wichita, or fifteen minutes west of the town of Medicine Lodge.

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The shape of the site roughly resembles a backwards C. Its northern portion is comprised of grasslands and farmland and runs for one mile east to west along Dog Creek Road, a red gravel road that is typical of the area. This northern piece of the site is split by Little Bear Creek, a small stream running southwest, and on either side of its banks a neighbouring farmer is leasing the land, growing fields of wheat. Excluding his tilled fields, these lowlands are primarily made up of tall grass and sage brush, with cedar trees running along the banks of the creek.

The remainder of the site is comprised of the weathered mesas or buttes that visually define the Gypsum Hill landscape. A line of mesa peaks rises from the lowlands at the north end of the site, then runs down the eastern edge of the property line. At their base near the centre of the site there are meadows, two man-made ponds and clusters of cedar trees, as well as access to a dirt road that runs directly to Rt.160 to which the site holds an easement. In the site’s southwest corner, three distinct mesa peaks are knuckled together, providing expansive views to the south, southwest, and west. The site has an elevation change of greater than 200’ from the lowest point along the creek to the highest point atop the mesas.

Buttes rise behind freshly tilled wheat fields in the north portion of the site.
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