WKAs competition entry was selected as the winning concept for two new Prairie Learning Centers at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Wilmington, Illinois. Midewin is a Green Legacy Project for the Centennial Celebration of the Plan of Chicago. The Learning Centers share a priority for intimacy with the landscape, a similar palette of materials, and strategies for energy independence. The buildings vary in site planning strategies, owing to differences in purpose and tenor of the surroundings.
Located at the southern edge of an expanse of future tallgrass and wetland prairie, the Iron Bridge facility is hunkered down into the earth, entered through a path carved into a sheltering berm. Interpretive displays are cast into the abutments of the entry path, integrating the content with the building. The entry path opens onto the main gathering space, which broadsides the prairie to maximize the breadth of the panorama.
In contrast the River Road center responds to the geometry imposed on the site from its agricultural legacy. The open-air classroom, the service building, and the overlook are organized along a low rammed earth wall that parallels the existing hedgerow. Sited on the south edge of the hedgerow, the structures maximize sun exposure, visibility upon approach, long viewing distances, and easy access to multiple fields with minimal disruption of the activities.
To download a PDF of the competition entry boards right click here, and “save link as”