Working in a 1932 dairy barn, the boundary a modern structure typically provides between us and the environment is…fuzzy. Mice live in the walls. Fox snakes shelter on the silo stairs and bask in offices. Leaves blow in through open doors and insects sneak in through open windows. When our offices and programs move into Amazing Space next year, maintaining a close connection with nature while taking advantage of things like climate control and screens on windows, is challenging.
In Amazing Space we want to ensure guests are still connecting with nature, without subjecting them to water dripping on their heads and wasps landing on their papers. We also want to make sure we take full advantage of the additional space the new building provides us. Enter…the inside creek. It’s not a real creek. A real creek with flowing water was discussed early on during brainstorming, but we decided it would cause many of the same complications we experience in our existing building, as well as being unsustainable financially to maintain.
A replica creek, on the other hand, could provide a marvelous guest experience on a number of levels. First, by filling it with models of the plants and animals that live in the Iowa waterways but our seldom seen, guests would learn more about the creek outside and make their nature experiences more meaningful. Second, the soft curves of the creek break up the angular building corners and hard planes of construction, creating a far more natural feel. Third, having the model underground provides a unique interactive element for all guests, without inhibiting people moving freely through the building during large events.
Casting the creek directly into the floor was a challenge for both the designers and the contractors-most concrete and construction equipment is designed for right angles, but the team rose to the occasion magnificently. Eventually, the plywood will be replaced with glass, the void underneath filled with rocks and dirt, replica crayfish and mussels. In the meantime, the gentle curves of the “creek” running through the building remind everyone working on the site that this unique project is ultimately for the environment.