Architects: ENSITU – Patrick Dillon
Client: Eugene Eisenmann Avifauna Foundation
Design/ Production Team: Brenda Gotti, Zitta Pozo, Aristides Robles, Emilio Rivadeneira
Structural Engineer: Arquinde. Martin Isaac, Luis McNulty
MEP: Luis Carlos Gotti
Area: Visitor’s Center- 150 sqm, Observation Tower- 32m height
Photographs: Sylvia Grunhut, Colibri Productions
The extensive investigations of isthmian avi fauna carried out by the renowned Panamanian ornithologist Eugene Eisenmann during the 1950s and 60s significantly influenced subsequent generations of ornithologists, including Robert Ridgely and John Gwynn, author and illustrator, respectively, of the classic field guide “The Birds of Panama”. In 2005 Ridgely and Gwynn were instrumental in the organization of the Eugene Eisenmann Avifauna Foundation in homage to their mentor, and in the identification of its mission to protect and preserve native bird habitats throughout Panama.
In compliance with this mission the decision was made to build the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center, consisting of a 150 m2 visitor center, a 32m (100 ft.) tall observation tower and 2 kms of pathways on a 20 hectare lowland humid tropical forest site contiguous to the world famous Pipeline Road and the Soberanía National Park.
Architect Patrick Dillon (ENSITU) designed the “off the grid” visitor’s center and observation tower to generate the least possible impact on their respective sites, and each in its own way reflects sustainable design principles, including the construction of facilities on previously impacted sites (the visitor center site had been deforested in the 80´s by the U.S.
Army to build a tropical test facility), the use of photovoltaic panels for energy generation, the use of recycled building materials (structural steel, wood panelling and flooring), the collection, treatment and consumption of rainwater, the treatment and recycling of sewage and other effluents and the integration of natural ventilation systems.
The facility was inaugurated in January 2008 by then President Martin Torrijos and since then has been visited by more than fifteen thousand visitors, including students and tourists, contributing significantly in this manner to environmental education in Panama.