Located just outside Denver, The Wildlife Experience is a museum dedicated to promoting a deeper understanding of wildlife and the value of conservation. The facility houses a collection of wildlife art and cultural artifacts, presents interpretive exhibitions and educational programs about the human connection to the animal world, and provides space for civic and philanthropic events.
If you are a nature buff, lover of animals, and someone who is concerned about the natural environment, what can you do to raise awareness about endangered species? Where can you go to learn more about the history of wildlife and the dangers that animals face in our rapidly changing world?
A generous donor wanted to create a place to teach the public about the history of wildlife and the dangers that animals face in our rapidly changing world. And so he initiated plans for a wildlife experience center to house his collection of wildlife art and related cultural artifacts. In addition, he offered to celebrate the museum’s opening by offering it as the venue for the annual exhibition of the National Society of Wildlife Artists.
To realize his goal, however, there was very little lead time. The dates of the exhibition were less than two years away. There was no museum staff or infrastructure as yet, and construction would have to slow down during the winter months due to the usual snow and freezing weather conditions of the area.
[The Wildlife Experience] bridges the twin focus on nature and up-to-the-minute engineering, combining prairie-style organism with the rugged rural west.
In order to meet the client’s deadline, Overland made a decision at the start of the process to employ a precast concrete structure, commonly used for parking garages, as the skeleton for the building’s structure. Although this required them to work within the constraints of predetermined measurements, the architects designed the building from the inside out, with interior features relating to the the wildlife theme and extending organically into the outdoor areas.
The interior of the building is comprised of a first floor devoted to natural history dioramas and artifacts and a second floor featuring galleries filled with wildlife art. As visitors enter the building, they enter a space reminiscent of the Rocky Mountains, as they are greeted by a massive stone wall that functions as both a grand staircase and a sculpture. Walking up through this environment to the second floor simulates the experience of journeying through the canyons. Similarly, access to the outdoors is like a stroll through nature, with a series of gardens leading us to outdoor installations of animal sculptures.
Consistent with the attitude of harmonious design with the land, the site incorporates materials that weather elegantly over time. Exterior materials consist of structural precast concrete panels, sandstone, copper, and anodized aluminum glazing systems. Interior materials include wood wall panels, exposed structural ceilings with wood beams and trusses, and hardwood and native stone flooring.
The Wildlife Experience building also houses an IMAX theater, a cafe, and a basement level for support functions, administrative offices, and mechanical spaces.
- AIA San Antonio Citation Award 2006
- Chicago Athenaeum American Award for Architecture 2004
- AIA San Antonio Merit Award 2003
- Building Magazine Gold Nugget Merit Award for Best Public/Private Special Use Facility 2003
- Umran Magazine, “The Wildlife Experience,” January 2006
- Architecture, “Rugged, Rustic and Refined,” May 2005