Desert culture centre designed to be part of the landscape
The Nk’Mip Desert Culture Centre is located in the most endangered landscape in Canada. Its design is a specific and sustainable response to the building’s unique context - the spectacular Canadian desert found south of the Okanagan Valley in Osoyoos, British Columbia. This 1,600-acre parcel of land, belonging to the Osoyoos Indian Band is the largest intact remnant of this unique habitat in Canada.
Completed in 2006, the building features indoor and outdoor exhibits that honour the cultural history of the Band and are designed to be an extension of the remarkable site. The desert landscape flows over the building’s green roof and is held back by the largest rammed-earth wall in North America. The partially underground building is sited specifically to focus the visitor’s eye away from the encroaching development of Osoyoos, with the height of the wall set to create a layered view of the desert, receding to the riparian landscape and the mountains in the distance.
The extreme climate made sustainable design a particular challenge, however, this challenge posed great opportunity for true innovation. The project’s ambitious approach towards sustainable design includes a rammed-earth wall gives the building exterior a unique material and poetic sensibility, while helping retain warmth in the winter and allowing for substantial thermal mass cooling in the building during the summer.
Blue-stain pine is used throughout the project, and a habitable green roof reduces the building’s visual imprint on the landscape and allows a greater percentage of the desert habitat to be re-established on the site.
In-slab radiant cooling and heating reduces energy use substantially, as well, low flow fixtures and waterless urinals contribute to water use reduction.
Endangered species research is housed on site and includes facilities for the Band’s award-winning rattlesnake research project.