Marine Education Center
“All buildings eventually end up in the ocean.”
-Chris Snyder, Director of the Marine Education Center
Heeding this advice, the design team began to envision the new Marine Education Center at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory after the previous Center was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The Center exemplifies sustainable coastal building techniques in harmony with the marine environment. The use of wood was a primary focus of the design to unite the Center to the adjacent pine flatwood forest. The education facility includes outdoor classrooms, laboratories, administration offices, assembly spaces, exhibition areas and a pedestrian suspension bridge where researchers have an unparalleled opportunity to learn about the ecologically critical bayou and tidal wetlands of southern Mississippi.
At the inception of the project, the team consulted with biologists and site ecologists to assess the flora and fauna in three pre-determined zones before selecting which would be the optimal site for the new Center. The chosen zone had the least sensitive ecosystem, provided access to open water, and had suitable building elevation to protect the buildings in the event of a natural disaster. The campus of buildings was designed to be naturally resilient. The main buildings were sited within the existing tree canopy, allowing the trees serve as a natural wind buffer. Considering natural disasters and durability, the design focused on using and maintaining the land to serve as the first line of defense. The building’s foundation used helical piers to minimize the impact to the roots of the trees that would protect the buildings.
Associate Architect: unabridged Architecture
Landscape Architect: Studio Outside
Photographer: Casey Dunn