Fortlandia Lets Kids Explore Imaginary Worlds

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s interactive exhibit is now open daily to the public through January 2022

By Meher Qazilbash
Photos by Alicia Wells
Fortlandia at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has brought back Fortlandia, an incredible exhibit of custom-designed forts created by local architects, designers and artists. Now in its fourth year, the fun and interactive collection opened on October 4th to the general public and will run through January 30, 2022.

“Fortlandia is getting people outside. It’s getting people moving, interacting with each other and having a wonderful time enjoying the outdoors,” says Tanya Zatrow, Director of Programs at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. “Especially during the pandemic, it’s a great time to be outside, enjoy family and friends and be active.”

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The Wildflower Center is continuing its tradition of displaying exhibits in the Mollie Steves Zachry Texas Arboretum, but this year, in partnership with the Trail Foundation, two additional forts will be exhibited along the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake, giving Austinites even more ways to participate in the extraordinary event.

Along with encouraging outdoor activity, Fortlandia also highlights the beauty and wonders within Austin’s natural landscape. This year’s collection features a variety of imaginative forts by talented new creators that each have their own distinct stories.

Jack with his custom-built fort design, “Connect.”

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One standout is Connect, the product of a unique partnership between Reach Architects, StoryBuilt and Jack Wilson. Jack, an Austin teenager with down syndrome, sketched the idea for Connect as a place to battle feelings of loneliness and isolation that often appears in the lives of those with disabilities. He also wanted to make a space for people to “chillax.” Outfitted with tunnels, loungers and ladders, this uplifting fort encourages people to interact and create connections of their own. October is also Down Syndrome Awareness Month, making it a great time to visit the exhibit.

Plenty of other masterpieces will be available for families to explore, including a light maze imported from Spain called Silvana and a playful spin on food trucks known as The Critter Café. Visitors are even invited to build their own structures using materials provided on site. These creative spaces are important additions for the Austin community, as they promote amusement, artistry and appreciation for our beautiful city.

Families can get in on the action with tools to build their very own forts.

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Fortlandia reservations are encouraged and available 7 days in advance. Open daily, entry to the exhibit is included with regular admission to the Wildflower Center. 


Read More From the Architecture Issue | October 2021


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