Big Bend National Park isn’t just a place of stunning natural beauty—the Texan park is also paleontological paradise. To tell the story of the area’s rich fossil history, Texan architecture studio Lake | Flato designed the Fossil Discovery Exhibit, a series of interpretive pavilions that draws inspiration from the surrounding topography. The unstaffed, low-maintenance buildings operate off grid and draw energy and water from solar panels and a rainwater catchment system.
Created as a series of open-air pavilions, the Fossil Discovery Exhibit takes visitors on the Big Bend Fossil Discovery Trail: a sequential walkway that covers four paleontological eras from the Early Cretaceous period to the Cenozoic Era. “The complex story of Big Bend’s remarkable landscape can be brought to life through its fossil history and the artifacts found within the park,” wrote the architects. “These characteristics create a unique opportunity for interpretation and education; the trail will describe the world-class diversity and length of Big Bend’s fossil history while directly referencing the breathtaking surrounding landscape.”
Elevated on concrete piers, the building is clad in perforated weathering steel for low maintenance and camouflage so as to avoid disrupting views from the road and trails. Interior partitions guide visitors through the spaces, the highlight of which is the Gallery of the Giants where massive bones and recreated skeletons are on display. Solar panels power the buildings, while the angled roof, which evokes a winged dinosaur, is optimized for rainwater collection.
Images by Casey Dunn