Structural Engineers: Vanguard Engineering
Landscaping: Thomas Balsley Associates
Text description provided by the architects. The North American Butterfly Association’s mission is to promote butterfly watching and to conduct research relating to the location of butterfly peaches and factors affecting their diversity and survival. Underlying this objective is an overarching desire to impart respect for the environment and understand global climate shifts through educational exhibits, programs and gardens.
Our Master Plan is Jeffersonian in nature, calling for the division of the 100-acre parcel into “pixels,” or plots of land (22 by 22 feet). Using a careful patterning of enclosed and open space, the Welcome Pavilion emerges organically with surrounding garden walls out of this geometric structure. This concept not only gives the site and its buildings an overall visual unity, it allows future incremental development over time as money is raised and plants of varied species are propagated. We worked with many different stakeholders to hone their goals into a workable solution that met the institution's budget and held to the monies that this township could allocate towards infrastructure expansion to this area.
The Welcome Center is a multi-use building, housing all the functions of the organization. This includes: office and conference, exhibitions, retail, ticketing/information, restrooms and a cafe. Built of timber construction and clad in Mexican white block, it is organized by the same dimensional grid as the master plan design for the whole site. In other words, it is a continuation of the garden and landscape wall unit.
The abstract quality of the building is achieved through a reductive process that started with the local vernacular, local materials, and construction methods. This ultimately optimized their relationships for both economy and ecology. Fenestration is minimal and sheltered from the harsh sun. White walls and high albedo roof reflect heat. The walls are capped with a galvanized aluminum cornice that shines white against the intense blue Texan sky. Walls are planar, laid in a white block that comes from just over the border in Mexico. The standard 4-inch by 16-inch dimension is held vertically in staggered rows. Facades are detailed with a series of recessed blocks so as to bring scale and richness.
Inside, the entire room is bathed in green paint – a color that simultaneously unifies the interior and brings a liveliness to the exterior sun-baked landscape. A continuous snake of curving table units can be assembled in varied ways to define spaces or be used for either retail or exhibition display. Polycarbonate walls act as screens to the varied uses off the central open space.