CERN Physicist and Noted Landscape Architect Redesigns Tucson’s Historic Bates Mansion Courtyard

May 30, 2013

Walking through the courtyard of the Bates Mansion on a warm spring day, Dr. W. Thomas Hintz muralsurveys the existing palm trees and gray concrete slabs that lie under the flapping banner of the the former resident of the home, the Mountain Oyster Club. Armed with both a PhD in particle physics and a masters degree in landscape architecture, it is Dr. Hintz’s mission to turn this 5,000 square foot, concrete covered courtyard into an welcoming space that reflects the mission of the home’s new tenant, a maker and hacker space called Maker House.

When the Executive Director of Maker House, Vanessa Ford, first approached Dr. Hintz with a proposal to turn this barren courtyard into a desert-friendly oasis, she was unsure if Dr. Hintz would be able to take on the project. “Dr. Hintz only accepts a handful of projects every year, so that when he works with a client, they get his undivided attention. We are thrilled that he agreed to work with us.”

An award-winning landscape architect, whose work has been featured on HGTV, Hintz is known primarily for his pool, spa and outdoor spaces, but the needs of the Maker House courtyard mesh well with his own interests in dynamic, whole-picture design. The challenge of turning several layers of concrete slab into a green space that still respects the precious water resources of a desert space were part of what drew Hintz to accept the project, but the mission of Maker House was the deciding factor.

“I love exercising the creative part of my brain, as it allows for a balanced approach to science, and Maker House is all about bringing this balanced approach to the broader Tucson community,” says Hintz. “When Vanessa came to me with the idea, she told me that this is going to be a community-driven collective of
artisans, hackers, and crafters, with an emphasis on bridging and combining disciplines for creative problem solving. I knew immediately that it was something I had to be a part of.”

Dr. Hintz’s design is being implemented by T and B Contractor Project Manager Cisco Curry, who is working hand-in-hand with Hintz to bring fresh ideas and artistic integrity to the space. A vertical food garden planted along the shade pergola is among the ideas that Hintz and Curry have devised for the courtyard.

When the space opens in September of this year, Dr. Hintz will serve as Maker House’s Resident Physicist, hosting a salon series devoted to inviting members of the community into the space to discuss, research and explore scientific ideas. Mr. Curry will teach classes on hydroponics, vertical food production and water harvesting.

Maker House will also house several large workrooms, an onsite coffee bar, a workshop with modern artistic equipment including kilns, 3D printers, computerized sewing machines and vinyl cutters, and meeting space for Tucson organizations. Classes in traditional crafting techniques, health and wellness, using new technologies, and other community-driven offerings will be available and taught by local experts. Ford says they welcome suggestions and input from the community on what classes should be offered.

Turning back to the kumquat trees that provide shade for the small concert area, Hintz gestures to the flagstone and begins to discuss the relationship between the heat reflected off the stone and the temperature needs of the trees, and how the two are not currently in harmony with each other. “But that’s OK”, says Hintz, “because when we look at the whole picture, we can see how to alter the airflow, water usage, and so on, to make sure these trees’ biological requirements are met while still allowing the space to be used for the creative purpose it was designed for.

And that sort of describes what Maker House is all about; combining the scientific with the creative to make a better place.”

Maker House is a new collaborative artisan, maker, education, tech, and gathering space opening in the Downtown Tucson Arts District Tech Corridor in September of 2013.