[All photos by BUILD LLC]

On a recent trip to Tofino on Vancouver Island of British Columbia’s west coast, we came across a hike through the rainforest of Florencia Bay. The hike was particularly inspiring because of how the raised boardwalk trail delicately snaked its way through the lush rainforest, leading the way to a pristine stretch of beach.

There was a confidence about the boardwalk that we took pleasure in – it wasn’t designed to blend in or disappear like camouflage. The boardwalk wasn’t trying to copy nature or compete with it, at the same time the simple structure respected the nature it rested within. While made of a different language and built by the human hand, the raised platform of cedar boards looked like it belonged there in this unspoiled environment.

The handrails were worn by years of use and the floor boards displayed grooves from the thousands of footsteps passing over. These differences in texture and shape communicated a story about the boardwalk. The very use of the object became the ornament.

Subtle acts of creativity were crafted by the boardwalk’s builders, an exaggerated radius at a bend or a deliberate array of boards at a corner. And yet the boardwalk was everything it needed to be and nothing more.

The boardwalk illustrated the qualities we so often aim for in architecture and design; creating something that belonged there all along. The irony is that there were no architects involved with this boardwalk; and if there were drawings, of any sort, they must have been plain and almost sketch-like to allow for the constant variables.

Achieving design of this level seems almost primal. A knowledge of wood and earth and rudimentary physics seems more beneficial than any number of graduate design degrees. Overthinking or overdesigning in this instance would immediately diminish the end result.

It got us thinking that maybe the Forest Service would make for a good supplementary education over the summer for an architecture student.

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