Heading East on US-82 / TX-114 one could easily pass St. Michael’s Park in Ralls, Texas without ever taking notice. This small plot of land south of the interstate bordered by light steel framing simply blends into the horizon. What initially appears as a dumb grouping of metal sticks and corrugated roofing is a successful assemblage of implied rooms, subtle axes and one radical scale change.
Late afternoon with what appeared to be most of the town across the highway at the new ball park cheering on their team St. Michael’s stood silent with a stage, two bleachers and a series of stalls equipped with electricity. Entering, I appreciated the chamfered corner threshold that brought me directing inline with the intersection of two axes, one running parallel with the highway the other perpendicular, created by the repetition of open stalls. A quiet boundary wrapped the park formed only from metal roofing, posts and a few horizontal bars at thirty six inches.
Standing at the top of the bleachers, about 4′ above the Llano Estacado, I was introduced to an intimate yet connected space on this high Texas plain. Noises and wind still reached me and I could see for miles but the roof was close and framing was to my back providing a sense of enclosure I had yet to experience outdoors. I was above the ground while still being a part of land, I was exposed to the elements and sheltered overhead.
Refreshingly the architecture of St. Michael’s park is not visually dense, loud or flashy. This park is a combination of frames and planes, built by convention, accessible to the human and modifiable at will. The scale and orientation is spot on and seasonal character is recorded in the weathering material. Only a few discongruent components exist: terminated edges should be more continuous, the decorated gate is unnecessary, and stage is too isolated. Yet all of those are secondary to the skeleton of St. Michael’s. This is a place I easily imagine weekend markets, local performances, grilling, parties and play. And when the park is not in use the architecture merges back into the horizon offering a reminder of the landscape that West Texans live and work in.