What is Fortlandia? Among many things that ignite imagination and make people think of a bygone past, forts deserve a special mention. The ruins of an ancient fort make you think about its glorious past, replete with warfare, big rituals, and pomp of aristocracy. While watching forts on TV or movies is a nice experience, forts in person can be mind-blowing. However, would it not be nice if kids were given a chance to build forts using their creativity and imagination? This is what Fortlandia is all about!
Fortlandia is hosted at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and Botanic Gardens. This is a yearly mass “fort building” event where kids visiting Austin, Texas, are given a chance to ignite their imagination. Kids love making forts while playing, and this is a universal thing. The majority of kids love using sand and mud for making forts, and there are some who use pillows and blankets at home for the same purpose. However, at Fortlandia, it’s a different experience. The event is held for nearly 2 months.
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The initiative started in 2018, and every year its popularity keeps growing. Every year, 10 different forts are set up in the venue. While the event is aimed mostly at the kids, the plan and execution also catch the imagination of their parents.
At the recently held Fortlandia 2022, there were 8 amazing forts set up by a handful of professional architects and artists. San Marcos-based Color Space Architecture offered “The Critter Stack.” They said: “By integrating natural stacked materials within and on the installation, The Critter Stack invites Fortlandia attendees to consider life forms smaller than themselves and to take a closer, respectful look at the wilderness that we can help support outside our front doors. Children are also invited to crawl right up and into the installation and imagine what it is to become a little critter themselves.” (Good News Network).
“The Critter Cafe,” by Designer Jodi Bade, was another attraction at the event. Jodi’s fort won the people’s choice award for the event. The item was made using a vintage garden tractor, and she used child-safe kitchen equipment. For the event held in 2020, Perkins & Will set up a fort made of bamboo tubes.
The Wildflower Center’s Director of Programs, Tanya Zatrow, said: “Fortlandia is getting people outside. It’s getting people moving, interacting with each other, and having a wonderful time enjoying the outdoors. Especially during the pandemic, it’s a great time to be outside, enjoy family and friends and be active.” Every year, local architects and designers come up with unique and enticing fort setups, and the kids exploring the venue are delighted. They also design forts where kids coping with handicaps or special conditions can feel at ease. (Tribeza).
Fortlandia is an event where kids are offered a truly immersive experience, and they explore natural settings and use their creativity to the hilt. They are encouraged to design their own forts, and for that, materials are given at the site. While setting up the amazing fort setups, artists and architects ensure eco-friendly materials are used and that designs are safe enough for the kids to explore. Clearly, the annual event has found an overwhelmingly positive response from the residents. The images shared on social media platforms have gone viral. The organizers are planning to make it more enjoyable and colorful.