The new Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge Education Center is part of efforts by the Riverfront Development Corporation of Delaware to restore marshlands along the Christina River, while creating economic vitality, enhancing the environment and promoting public access.
The site for the new facility is an open expanse of reclaimed wetland located at the southernmost edge of Wilmington’s urban environment. Housing exhibits, classrooms and offices for nature education and related recreation activities, as well as community meeting and gathering space, the building enhances and encourages the relationship between urban development along the waterfront and the natural environment.
Elevated above the marshlands, the design responds to the dynamics of the natural systems – tidal river and wetlands – as well as infrastructural elements: an adjacent railway, high voltage power lines, and multiple utility rights of way. The center is at once a sentinel standing guard over the refuge and a gateway between the urban environment and the last vestige of natural marshland.
As they traverse the delicate bridge, visitors experience the tenuous connection between man and nature. Seen from afar, the building acts as a beacon marking the terminus of the city’s riverwalk. From within, windows on the north façade frame views to the city while the south opens toward the natural setting.
Sustainable features were also incorporated into the design of the building such as on-site solar panels to produce renewable energy, glass exposure allowing for natural day-lighting, and operable windows providing natural ventilation in offices and classroom spaces. Materials used include bio fiber sustainable wood paneling, eco-tile, high recycled content ceramic tile, linoleum flooring in selected areas, low-flow plumbing fixtures, high albeido roof color, low-e insulation, and interior shades for occupant comfort and control of sun/day lighting. GWWO served as the Design Architects for this project, in partnership with Architect-of-Record Becker Morgan Group of Wilmington, Delaware.