Prairie Ridge Open-air Classroom is a 1400 sq ft observation deck and screened-in educational space perched like a tree house on a hillside overlooking a 38-acre urban prairie in Raleigh, NC.
Harmon designed the simple, rustic facility so that everything about it could be used as a tool for teaching sustainability to students and other visitors at Prairie Ridge, from the use of recycled and indigenous materials to the method by which the open-air interior is comfortable nine out of 12 months of the year. Screened in on three sides, the classroom catches southwesterly breezes all year while its deep, south-facing roof overhang maximizes sun exposure in winter and shade in summer.
In 2005 the Prairie Ridge Open-air Classroom received a Merit Award from the AIA/North Carolina. In 2006 it received an Honor Award from the Triangle Chapter of AIA/NC and from Inform Magazine, which is published by AIA/Virginia.
The SAR/AIA awards were presented during a conference held October 4-7 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where Frank Harmon also served as a speaker. He presented 'Sustainable By Example', a case study of the AIA/NC Center for Architecture & Design, which will be built in downtown Raleigh. Harmon won the professional design competition for the project in early 2008.
Of the 238 projects entered in the SAR/AIA design awards program, 23 received awards. The South Atlantic Region includes North and South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.