May 1, 2008
by Canadian Architect
LOCATION OSOYOOS, BRITISH COLUMBIA
ARCHITECT HOTSON BAKKER BONIFACE HADEN ARCHITECTS + URBANISTES
Located in the most endangered landscape in Canada, the design of the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre is a specific and sustainable response to the building’s unique context–the spectacular Canadian desert found south of the Okanagan Valley in Osoyoos, British Columbia. This 1,600-acre parcel of land belonging to the Osoyoos Indian Band is the largest intact remnant of this unique habitat in Canada.
The building features indoor and outdoor exhibits that honour the cultural history of the Band and are designed to be an extension of the remarkable site. The desert landscape flows over the building’s green roof and is held back by the largest rammed-earth wall in North America. The partially underground building is sited specifically to focus the visitor’s eye away from the encroaching development of Osoyoos, with the height of the wall set to create a layered view of the desert, receding to the riparian landscape and the mountains in the distance. The building is also intended to challenge the fake adobe building stylization that is becoming more common in the South Okanagan.
Extreme climatic conditions made sustainable design a particular challenge, which nonetheless offered a great opportunity for true innovation. Hot, dry summers and cool, dry winters see average temperatures ranging from -18C to +33C and often reaching +40C in the summer season. The building’s siting and orientation are the initial strategic undertakings toward sustainability; the partially buried structure mitigates the extremes in temperature and its orientation optimizes passive solar performance, with glazing minimized on the south and west sides.
The project’s ambitious approach towards sustainable design is addressed in a number of ways. To begin with, the Centre boasts North America’s largest rammed-earth wall, which gives the building exterior a unique material and poetic sensibility. Its graduated layers of earth evoke geological sedimentation within a distinctly contemporary architectural language. Constructed from local soils mixed with concrete, the wall retains warmth in the winter and allows for substantial thermal mass cooling in the building during the summer.
Blue-stain pine is used throughout the project. Harvested from local forests devastated by the infestation of the pine beetle, the wood is cast with a tint as though a blue wash has been applied. While its inherent structural qualities are equivalent to white pine, blue-stain pine is not normally specified for finished building use. In this way, Nk’Mip is something of a demonstration project, showing how the pine can be utilized and its unique visual qualities celebrated.
A habitable green roof reduces the building’s visual imprint on the landscape and allows a greater percentage of the desert habitat to be reestablished on the site. In-slab radiant cooling and heating reduces energy use substantially, and low-flow fixtures and waterless urinals contribute to water use reduction, which is especially important in the desert.
Endangered species research is housed on site and includes facilities for the Band’s awardwinning rattlesnake research project. Included are public viewing areas where visitors can see endangered rattlesnakes captured, tagged and microchipped for further study and protection.
Anne Cormier: This very strong yet entirely discreet cultural centre becomes a museum of site–one which innovatively represents the locale’s desert earth in the form of an insulating rammed-earth wall. Although very large, the chameleon-like wall defines an ambiguous threshold between landscape and building and positions the partially buried auditorium and exhibition room with strategic orientation. These intimate spaces seem to be defined by a tamed earth and sky rather than walls and ceilings.CA
CLIENT OSOYOOS INDIAN BAND
ARCHITECT TEAM BRUCE HADEN, BRADY DUNLOP, NORM HOTSON, STEPHANIE FORSYTHE, TINA HUBERT, JULIE BOGDANOWICZ
STRUCTURAL EQUILIBRIUM CONSULTING INC.
MECHANICAL COBALT ENGINEERING
ELECTRICAL MCL ENGINEERING
LANDSCAPE PHILLIPS FAREVAAG SMALLENBERG
EXHIBIT DESIGN ALDRICH PEARS ASSOCIATES
CODE CONSULTANT LMDG
ACOUSTICS BKL CONSULTING
THEATRE ELECTRICAL ACUMEN CONSULTING ENGINEERS
LIVE DISPLAY BUFO INCORPORATED
THEATRE DESIGN DOUGLAS WELCH DESIGN
CONTRACTOR GREYBACK CONSTRUCTION
BUDGET $3.5 M
COMPLETION JUNE 2006
THE RAMMED-EARTH WALL POETICALLY EXPRESSES THE COLOUR OF THE NK’MIP SOIL AS THE DESERT MOUNTAINS RISE UP BEHIND THE CULTURAL CENTRE
THE COR-TEN STEEL COMPLEMENTS THE WARM TONES OF THE RAMMED-EARTH WALL WHILE LAKE OSOYOOS CAN BE SEEN IN THE DISTANCE.