Little project wins big awards

Frank Harmon wins 4th award for Prairie Ridge Ecostation

by Kim Weiss 18 October 2009
When the NC Museum of Natural Science’s Prairie Ridge Ecostation for Wildlife & Learning won a 2009 Honor Award from the South Atlantic Region (SAR) of the American Institute of Architect, it marked the fourth time architect Frank Harmon has received accolades for his design of this thoroughly 'green' open-air classroom.

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.

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