Architects: Frank Harmon Architect PA
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
Project Manager: Frank Harmon Architect PA, Erin Sterling, AIA, LEED
Project Landscape Architect: Cynthia Rice Landscape Architecture + Planning, LLC
Mechanical Engineer: Consider Design, PA, Isaac Panzarella, PE
Structural Engineer: Tim Martin, PE
Civil Engineer: McKim + Creed, Chris Stanley, PC, CFM
Project Area: 7,500 sqft
Photographs: © Courtesy of Frank Harmon Architect
The Walnut Creek Wetland Center is a 7,500 square foot Visitor Center that is part of a transformation of over 50 acres of abused, polluted wetlands in southeast Raleigh near the downtown urban center into a living, natural resource for the city. By reclaiming the wetlands area, the Center promotes understanding and protection of an urban wetland, enhances community pride, and encourages economic development in this area of the city. It also provides an accessible “quiet zone” for communing with nature while preserving the natural beauty of the wetland, protecting the habitat of numerous species, and lifting the spirits of those who visit it.
To conserve and protect the natural wetland, the Center rests lightly upon the sensitive land. Poised above the flood plain to create a minimal footprint, the Center embraces the indigenous materials surrounding it and responds to the climate and culture of southeast Raleigh. The all-wood construction utilizes recycled materials wherever possible and blends seamlessly into the landscape while an abundance of windows welcome the surroundings into the building. The windows also facilitate natural ventilation and illumination. All circulation occurs on the exterior of the building across a large south facing porch that projects out into the environment and recalls the deep, shaded porches of old Southern homes.
The metal roof’s overhang protects the porch and interior from the high, harsh summer sun yet allows the warmth of the lower winter sun to penetrate into the interior. A bio retention system adjacent to the parking lot is also in place to filter storm water runoff before it returns to Walnut Creek. The Center houses a lobby and exhibit area, classrooms, a conference room and a kitchen. Here, children and adults learn about urban wetlands within a wetland while enjoying renewed interest in this area of the city. The center will one day be connected to extensive trails and outdoor activities as the multi-phased project continues.