Leave the technology-ridden world behind for a little while to sink down into the Alaskan landscape. The visitor center at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge has 8,000 square feet of space, so visitors and locals alike can enjoy the surrounding beauty of Soldotna, Alaska.
The visitor center, designed by Cushing Terrell, features year-round programming that takes place throughout the property, including in the exhibit hall, the lobby areas with plentiful seating, the bookstore and the outdoor exhibit that is surrounded by a forested landscape.
“While the majority of the building is intended to be fairly subdued in its design and integrated into the landscape, the exhibit area, by contrast, floats defiantly above the contours and extends outward into the tree canopy, immersing users into the surrounding forested habitat,” the architects explained of the unique project, which was commissioned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
This visitor center isn’t just made to provide views of nature; it’s designed to exist in harmony with nature. The building has a sod roof, solar panels and an in-floor radiant heating system, making it extremely energy-efficient. LED lighting and a natural ventilation system provide natural light and fresh air. Thanks to these sustainable design features, the project has earned LEED Silver certification.
Designed to fit into the natural landscape that surrounds it, the Kenai Visitor Center is partially sunken into the ground. The design itself speaks volumes about how important it is to maintain a relationship with nature, preserve the natural world and create buildings that are good for the environment, rather than harmful to it.
The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge has been a haven for wildlife for nearly 80 years. It is home to moose, eagles, bears, wolves and swans, among many other beautiful creatures, not to mention many acres of plants and fungi of all types. It is a breathtaking region that is teeming with life and biodiversity in all directions. As such, it’s only fitting to enjoy all of this from an eco-friendly building that is made to sensitively integrate into the landscape and honor the natural world.
Photography by Ken Graham via Cushing Terrell