Urban Wetlands Education Center opens to the public
Phase One of the Walnut Creek Urban Wetland Educational Park in central Wake County, south of the downtown district, official opened today. The park is transforming 49 acres of abused, polluted wetlands into a living, natural resource for the City of Raleigh. Phase one of the project is the thoroughly 'green' 7,000 sq ft Environmental Education Center that houses a bookshop, conference room, small library, and a kitchen, as well as classrooms and a laboratory.
Designed by Frank Harmon, FAIA, of Frank Harmon Architect PA in Raleigh, the Center conserves and protects the natural wetland by resting lightly upon the land, echoing and embracing the indigenous materials surrounding it. The structure is poised six feet above the wetlands flood plain so its footprint is minimal.
The all-wood construction utilizes recycled materials wherever possible and blends seamlessly into the landscape while an abundance of windows welcome the surroundings into the building. The windows also facilitate natural ventilation and illumination. All circulation occurs on the exterior of the building across 'the longest back porch in North Carolina,' as Harmon calls it, inviting visitors out into the environment. The metal roof’s deep overhangs protect the interior from the harsh summer sun. A bio-retention system is also in place to filter storm water runoff before it returns to Walnut Creek. Extensive areas of native plants and flowers further blend the building into its surroundings.