Line and Space design a unique opportunity to interact with one of the most exceptional ecosystems in the United States
Massive sedimentary red rocks, remnants of ancient sea-side sand dunes, eclipse the sky beyond while the Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center rests gently in the Mojave Desert landscape. The Visitor Center lies along a 13 mile loop road that extends into the canyon and offers trail-heads to ten special places such as Ice Box Canyon and Sandstone Quarry. Visitors arriving at the entry plaza are greeted by graphic interpretive bands representing the four elements; earth, air, fire and water.
The entry is sheltered by a 'big hat' (a roof with deep overhangs). This offers a thermal and visual transition zone and forms the collection plane for rainwater harvesting. Past the entry plaza visitors encounter an 80-foot-long window framing a panoramic view of the red rocks. Visitors may pause at an outdoor shaded gathering space for an overview of the exhibits.
The Visitor Center blurs the boundary between indoor and outdoor space. Visitors can walk through Element Pavilions and experience how shade and evaporative cooling are employed to create tempered microclimates. The owner’s original idea, that this building be conventionally cooled and heated, was reinvented by the architect’s concept for exhibits to be designed as exterior space. This feature reduces interior conditioned space by 68%.
The Visitor Center promotes a clear land ethic by educating visitors on the biology, climatology, geology, and zoology they will continue to discover along the canyon trails. After exploring the exhibits, they are encouraged to experience the real phenomena as it naturally occurs.
Sustainable design elements that make this building merge with the landscape are visibly expressed to educate visitors on the importance of resource conservation. On the South end, a transpired solar collector, a new technology developed by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), captures the sun’s radiant heat and redistributes it to the restrooms; eliminating the need for mechanical systems in these spaces. A 55kW photovoltaic array supplements the building’s energy needs. Water harvesting tanks conserve this desert’s most precious resource.
The Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center is a sensible solution for the Mojave Desert landscape and genuinely helps to explain its surroundings.