The new LEED Platinum Robinson Nature Center recently opened in Howard County, Maryalnd. The main objective of the new center, designed by GWWO Architects, is to bring people together with nature, to learn, to experience nature and the environment around them, and to promote an ethic of stewardship of the land. The new 25,913-SF facility includes reception, exhibits, classrooms, 150-seat auditorium, 26’ diameter domed “Naturesphere” theater, gift shop, administrative offices and support spaces, storage and workrooms. In addition, the site includes ADA accessible trails, rough terrain walking trails, and demonstration gardens and landscaping.
The new building is designed to afford visitors a highly-immersive experience, both through its design and though integration with the exhibits within. The interpretation focuses on the surrounding forest ecosystem and on the habitats within. As visitors approach, they are at the level of the forest floor, literally walking on it. However, through the nestling of the building into site topography, as they enter the center and move towards the primary exhibit, they transition to the level of the tree canopy, both inside (into the top level of the exhibit that explores the forest ecosystem) and out (at the north end of the site where views are to the tree canopy). The transparent building enables visitors to see and feel this transition. They then circulate down through the primary exhibit, to the forest floor again, and continue to explore additional exhibits, including one on nocturnal habitats that takes them into an area appropriately positioned and darkened to reflect habitat conditions.
Location: Columbia, MD, US
My Role: Architect
Additional Credits: Alan Reed, Principal-in-Charge
Lisa Andrews, Project Manager