San Pedro Riparian Interpretive Center

San Pedro Riparian Interpretive Center


near Sierra Vista, AZ

The narrowest of courses, the San Pedro River is a “Corridor of Life” in an unrelenting desert. A pristine riparian habitat in the dry land of Arizona, the San Pedro National Conservation Area is a special place and a focal point of incredible biodiversity. The intense colors and textures of the plants along the river attract humans and animals alike.

Plans for this facility for the US Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management include parking and roads, interpretive trails, an outdoor amphitheater with an astronomy viewing pad and an 8,000 square foot Visitors Center, organized along a path leading to the river. The main circulation is marked by a sleek shade structure grid which serves as a wayfinding device and as a metaphor for the canopy of trees along the corridor. Moving a portion of exhibit space originally programmed to be conditioned interior space to shaded outdoor areas energy for cooling and heating is conserved.

Due to its remote location, the building was designed to operate off the grid, using local wells as a water source (supplemented by harvested rainwater), featuring on-site waste water treatment and disposal, and powered by an 80/20 hybrid generator/photovoltaic system. Designed to provide approximately 80% of the building’s power needs, the PV system is augmented by a propane generator for nighttime use or in the event of reduced solar collection due to cloud cover. The architecture itself becomes an educational tool, employing these environmentally-sensitive ideas along with grey water reuse for landscape irrigation, rain harvesting for water features and using exhaust air to create cooler exterior microclimates.

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