Architect Magazine: 2020 AIA Committee on the Environment Top Ten

By Katie Gerfen

Completed nearly a decade apart by the same team, two buildings on a shared site provide a master class in the evolution of contemporary sustainable design.

What were some of the design goals for this campus, including the Environmental Nature Center, completed in 2008, and the associated preschool, completed in 2016?

Rick D’Amato, FAIA, principal: The design for the ENC was about nature being on display. The design for the preschool became about how to start to become part of nature, rather than just looking at it. So, we took two different approaches, but that hands-on approach is what drove the preschool.

A lot changed in the eight years between completing the two projects. Had your design process changed as well?

The original goal of the preschool was to take what we learned in the Nature Center and not only amplify those strategies, but showcase what we had learned in the intervening time. The preschool started out a lot more aggressive in its approach to materials and systems, but the overriding factor in both projects was budget. For the ENC, we started with more aggressive targets as well, but we kept having to pare down and hold back. We might get a little extra money from a donor and then we’d able to put something back in. When we started the preschool, we understood that and designed for the project to be able to morph, change, adapt, and grow as we got more money, or as things changed on site.

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