Celebrating high alpine ecology and environmental stewardship through playful design and natural discovery.
Wild Bear Nature Center immerses visitors in the experience of education, discovery and wonder. Integrated with the Mud Lake Open Space in Nederland, Colorado at 9,000 above sea level, the design for the new Nature Center is inclusive and welcoming for all people year-round, expanding Wild Bear’s central role in the community and as a regional destination for environmental education.
The Nature Center building, design by Arch11 is a gateway and threshold to the wilderness and will be carbon emission-free utilizing passive energy efficient design strategies. Metal, wood and stone are used to create a site-specific architecture that functions as a living organism and is seamlessly aligned with both interior and exterior learning environments.
A nature playscape weaves its way through the forest and around the building, inspired by the surrounding geology and forest. Highly crafted, the playscape incorporates a central sculptural “play wall” that represents the Continental Divide and hybridizes educational and play elements to support Wild Bear’s programming. An outdoor amphitheater is a flexible and hybrid space to be used for outdoor classrooms, and small to large community gatherings adjacent to the Nature Center.
Connected by trails, a constellation of “observation stations” can be discovered across the larger site. These distributed landscape moments are self-guided, and show visitors how the forest is multidimensional, evoking all our senses – from the secrets of the soil and roots to the panorama of the canopy and sky. A range of activities are integrated with a discovery program that includes scent stations, rubbings, wildlife tracking, wilderness survival, bird observation, orienteering, sensory experiences, education about natural forest processes and climate change impacts.
Once degraded by mining and logging, the 5-acre site is currently dominated by a regrowth of lodgepole pine with limited stands of ponderosa pine and aspen. The proposed landscape design restores the montane ecosystem by enhancing biodiversity to welcome a diversity of plant and animal species, including bobcat, coyote, elk, moose and mountain lion and a wide range of birds, and insects.