Girl Scouts Camp Agnes Arnold ? Nature Center
Girls Scout Nature Center

Owner: Girl Scouts of San Jacinto

Architect: Ray + Hollington Architects

Construction Cost: $600,000

Square Footage: 4,000 sq. ft.

Completed: 2007


On the Camp Agnes Arnold campus, near Conroe, Texas, girl scouts learn a number of outdoor lessons and skills. To add to the activities curriculum at the camp, in 2006 the council commissioned the design of a new learning center that was geared toward teaching more about the local flora and fauna of the region. The design of the building has a rustic feel while including plenty of glass storefront in order to allow views down to the adjacent lake, which is used by the scouts for canoeing, fishing and bird-watching. The project also includes an outdoor classroom, constructed of timbers and 2x stick framing.

The location and slope of the site presented several challenges to the design team. These included design of sloping foundation elements, logistics of delivering concrete materials to the site and protection from downhill sheet flow of rain water. The lobby of the center had to remain at finished floor elevation while the site sloped down to the lake. So Pinnacle designed a cantilevered concrete foundation that resulted in a very unique aesthetic, as viewed from the lake-side of the facility. The architect designed a multi-faceted window wall system at the lobby. This required structural design of thin plate and channel sections with bent geometries that could support the mullion system, while not impeding exterior views from inside the lobby.


In the spirit of the girl scouts, the structure for this learning center needed to revolve around sustainability and local materials. Most of the wood for the project is site-derived from the camp itself. For the ridge beams that run the length of the building, flitch beams were employed to carry the rafter loads. These flitches consisted of 2x12's sandwiching steel plates, attached using through-bolts. Connections between flitches required custom plate geometries at each connection. Careful coordination with the steel detailer and fabricator was required to ensure proper fit-up in the field. Originally, the design called for 'rammed-earth' walls, which are typically constructed with compacted, moisture-controlled soils from on site. However, the height of the walls (reaching over 20 feet) paired with other factors, necessitated that the final design use 12" CMU block to match the other block on the project.

© Photos Courtesy of Ray + Hollington Architects, Inc.