Student architects at University of Louisiana at Lafayette are giving shape to a new public pavilion along Camellia Boulevard, the first installment of a planned art park in green space along the road near River Ranch.

The $77,000 pavilion — dubbed the Camellia Gridshell — will be built next to Mount Vernon Drive and will serve as an open place for rest, reflection and interpretation for the upcoming Camellia Art Park.

The gridshell “is a type of structure that uses very thin pieces of wood in a grid at a complex curve, and that gives it strength,” said Geoff Gjertson, the UL-Lafayette professor in charge of the project.

The pavilion, expected to be completed by October, originated as a part of the Thinking While Doing Partnership grant awarded two years ago by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

The partnership is a four-way collaboration among UL-Lafayette, Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, The University of Arizona and The University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

“All four schools are doing what’s called ‘design, build, education,’ where we teach architecture through designing and building structures,” Gjertson said. “Students have an opportunity to get hands-on experience developing their designs, where traditionally it’s been mostly hypothetical or theoretical work in architecture schools.”

Each of the four schools is designing and building their own gridshell.

A fifth gridshell is also planned to be built in Nova Scotia, which will be a direct collaborative effort by all four schools.

The experiences of the four schools will be published in 2016 in a book comparing the four structures and the paths the students took to build their pieces.

A book specifically about UL-Lafayette’s gridshell will also be published.

“I first wanted to join this studio because it was something the university had never experienced or taken part of before,” said Jessica Prejean, a UL-Lafayette graduate student involved in the project. “The prospective trip to Canada was an eye-opener on how much of a challenge this gridshell was going to be in the future months. But that was also reassurance as to why I chose to take this class.”

Students involved in the project worked with engineers and local contractors to design and start the process of building the gridshell.

The structure, which will be 40 feet long, 30 feet wide and 15 feet high, is to be the first installment of the Camellia Art Park, which will span along Camellia Boulevard from the Vermilion River to Johnston Street.

“We haven’t necessarily mapped the whole park out or the times associated with it this is just the first project and that’s the only thing on the books right now,” said City-Parish Chief Development Officer Carlee Alm-LaBar.

But she said city-parish government is actively looking for ways to invest in more public art. Along with the roughly $38,000 provided by the grant, which covers roughly half of the costs involved, the project is also being funded by the Acadiana Center for the Arts and Lafayette Consolidated Government.

But to complete the structure on time, Team Gridshell is looking to raise $15,000 by July 15. Those interested in donating to the cause can go to