Valle de Oro Visitors Center
Valle de Oro helped protect one of the largest remaining areas of undeveloped land on the Rio Grande in southern Albuquerque, creating new recreation opportunities for people to connect with nature close to home. Establishing this new wildlife refuge protected wildlife habitat, improved air and water quality, established new environmental education programs, and created jobs.
The visitor center is going to host eager visitors and devotee volunteers who tries to get in close touch with the spices that have settled beside the Rio Grande. The design has been developed in a way that blend itself with the future landscape while having the least impact upon site’s contexture.
Analyzing the existing precedents and our site’s topological condition and elements beside the studying the given program provided me enough information to lay my design upon.
From the very beginning, my intention was to define a form that would reflect its goals and character in many ways. A form that would be a part of the complex without becoming an alienated object within its context. So, I questioned myself; how would it possible to start designing a building that would include all these within its form? For me, the answer was relying on the context itself. Our visitor center is in such unique site that had the potential to become a definer of my form.
It could be said that my form is a result of various parallel studies based on site and precedent studies. To clarify, I will start describing both signs of progress side by side.
In term of site design analysis, I started by marking the main lines and patterns in my site such as the “S” shape AMAFCA Salt Grass Meadow, the Arc form Barr Drain, the River, the adjacent street on the east, view lines to shallow and deep wetland and finally the Sandia mountain axes (I intention was to orient my form to frame both Sandia and the wetlands). By offsetting all these lines into the center of the proposed site location I ended up with a very basic form (figure on the top) that helped me laying some guidelines to define my very basic early form.
As mentioned in the very beginning I studied some precedents such as “Wasit Natural Reserve Visitor Centre” too. Evaluating the proposed formal solutions in this building beside considering the provided building program by our client, I decided to split the programs into 4 different categories within 2 main functional zones. These programs were a) Administrative part which includes Staff and Volunteers areas, and b) Public zones that involve gallery, educational programs and finally the observation area.
Having both early conceptual form and the intention to split and detach the form into two functional zones, I ended up with the two separated forms with one side oriented in a way to frame the view towards the wetlands and golden cotton trees. Then I designed a bridge to connects them together. Then I took the water from Barr Drain and ran it beneath the bridge to blend my form more into its context. During the programming and refining stage, I realized how the bridge can be converted to a standalone program such as an exhibition corridor. So, I made it wider and put a partition along its center axis to host the exhibition stuff.