This education and recreation facility in an Oregon state park is powered by solar
The Cottonwood Canyon Experience Center is located inside Oregon’s second largest state park, encompassing 8,000 acres of untouched wildlife, natural habitat and unobstructed access to the John Day River. Completed in 2018 by Signal Architecture + Research and funded by the statewide nonprofit Oregon State Parks Foundation, the Experience Center is focused on education and recreation for both local residents and visitors.
Designers at Signal Architecture + Research were determined to complement the unique natural surroundings of the Cottonwood Canyon State Park as well as the historic barn structures found across the meadows near the river. The result was a ranch-style building of 1,500 square feet that includes a shaded outdoor space, a wood stove hearth and walkways that connect to camping and cabin sites.
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Along with the library media, exhibits and educational tools inside the center, the main wall of the weather-protected structure opens up to the elements, allowing for the blending of indoor and outdoor activities. The shade arbor is built of locally sourced, sustainable Juniper wood, which supports the eastern Oregon ecosystem and economy. The opposing doors have been designed for cross ventilation, and the translucent roofing reduces the need for artificial lighting during the daytime.
Both the exterior and interior materials were chosen to require little to no maintenance or repainting and look better as the wood weathers over time. Green building concepts were also incorporated with rooftop solar panels, energy-efficient LED lighting, passive heating and cooling, natural ventilation, ceiling fans and low-VOC interior finishes compliant with LEED. On the building site itself, native plants that require less water were used in the landscape and thoughtfully-placed shaded areas reduce heat gain from the sun.
According to Oregon State Parks Development Manager Scott Nebeker, “Cottonwood Canyon Experience Center is a capstone in the new State Park. Signal worked with us to design a facility that is both familiar to locals and inspiring to visitors and is at-home in the rugged and beautiful landscape.”