Our proposal for the outdoor photographic exhibition “Soul of the River” is centered around the creation of an Outdoor Room woven into the natural rolling landscape at the river’s edge. The Room is carved into the slope of the existing river bank and bound by two arcs of gabion walls (indigenous rock material held in metal gridded cages). Derived from the topography of the land, the offset arc geometry of these two walls creates a boat-shaped platform for viewing and enjoying both the exhibit and the river.

The Outdoor Room is further defined by a veil of lightweight steel rebar. The raw nature of the rebar used in typical concrete construction is reminiscent of the industrial history of the river and the neighboring steel railroad bridge visible from the site. The structure is functionally programmed as a linear easel, creating a surface suitable for mounting large-scale photographs depicting the river’s history. The veiled structure of rebar deflects slightly to accommodate the viewing angle of the visitor to the photographs while allowing for cross-sectional views of a distant onlooker to the river and landscape. The structure reflects the movement of the river and interacts with the visitors as they weave through the ribbons of rebar. The Room hosts the artistic reflections captured in photography and also captures new moments of reflection and curiosity with art and nature. 

The landscape shaping the river's edge is among the most interesting in the Midwest, and had been captured in photographs extensively by H.H. Bennett who introduced the world to this remarkable terrain.