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Robert Bateman Art & Environmental Education Centre, Victoria, Canada

Wednesday 30 Jun 2010

A living exhibit

Iredale Group 
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The Bateman Centre offers environmental education in a traditional art gallery and science museum setting 

The Bateman Centre is an initiative of Royal Roads University to offer environmental stewardship training within the context of a traditional art gallery and natural science museum. Named after famed Canadian wildlife artist Robert Bateman (who has donated a large portion of his life's work to the centre) and expected to attract 50,000 visitors per year, the building’s seminar and conference rooms will double as exhibit galleries for an ever-changing range of exhibits that focus on the natural world.

Education programs will combine management training with science and engineering - equipping executives to lead firms engaged in such green industries as sustainable forestry and agriculture, municipal waste recovery, and renewable energy. The energy and water self-sufficient building will use solar panels (hot water and photovoltaic), borrowed heat from a new wastewater treatment plant, daylighting, natural ventilation, and rainwater harvesting. Grey-water will be treated on site in an engineered wetland and recycled for use in toilet flushing and irrigation. Wet and dry solid waste from the cafeteria and administration activities will be processed to produce ethanol and electrical energy.

Ecologist Patrick Lucey of Aquatex Consultants played a key role in design. Using the holistic principals of the Cascadia Green Building Council’s 'Living Building Challenge', they analysed the overall building / landscape schema to ensure that biodensity (life-form density) will be increased rather than reduced by the project. Adjacent wetlands and a green roof were incorporated to provide a net increase in habitat area and such ecological services as carbon sequestration waste-breakdown.

The building's structure will be constructed of natural local materials: slate from nearby Port Renfrew, sawn Douglas fir timbers recycled from an abandoned airport hangar at the Comox Air-Force Base, and cedar cladding panels and carved cedar doors. The look, aroma, and patina of these materials brings to life the materiality of the old-growth Douglas fir, arbutus, and cedar forests that dominate the site, a 550-acre forested upland overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The arrival sequence will provide a transformative visitor experience. The 200-yard path leading from the east parking area to the building creates a transition between the busy day-to-day world of the overall campus and the silent world of Bateman’s art. Visitors approach on foot along a soft cedar-bark pathway that winds through a juvenile Garry oak meadow interspersed with the striking old-growth stands and cypress and maple trees in the open fields. The path leads to a rainwater-fed reflecting pond fronting the new building, over stepping stones next to a small waterfall, and along a carefully detailed timber and stone porch facing south to the Olympic Mountains.

Visitors will enter a welcome lobby that doubles as an open-plan gift shop and café. The basic building plan, arranged as a series of rooms emanating off of an oval central gallery, creates a curved and mythic path of travel through the exhibits and seminar rooms. Each gallery space unfolds in a series of 'openings' that draw visitors into a deeper awareness of the complexity of the natural world. This inward experience is enhanced with outward views into the surrounding forest. Clerestory windows in both the central gallery and seminar rooms will provide UV-filtered, natural full-spectrum light to illuminate the artwork.

Key Facts

Status Under construction
Value 0(m€)
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Iredale Group Architecture

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