Kingman Island Environmental Education Center

The Kingman Island Environmental Education Center (KIEEC) is envisioned as an active, didactic space, which will reach out to the local community to promote issues of ecology, conservation and sustainability.  In this mission, the physical presence of the center must serve both as a model of and an enabler for environmentally responsible practices.
The chosen site, “C”, presents the best of the three options.  It is easily accessible from both public transportation – existing bus routes on Benning Road – and private transportation, as parking lanes could be added in the right-of-way along the road.  It is the most publicly visible of the three locations, well within view from the elevated Metro tracks, the traffic corridor of Benning Road, and from the recreational areas across the the Anacostia River.  Its location would serve as a gateway entrance to the park, and it is in close proximity to the proposed park activities such as canoe tie-ups and playgrounds.  It is the only site with direct views across the Anacostia River and it is in direct contact with the proposed alignment for the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail and bike path.
A visit to the KIEEC starts upon arrival through the Benning Road entrance.  The two separate building masses of the educational center and the aquatic plant nursery flank the existing service road, further framed by a footbridge connecting the two buildings at the second level.  This gravel- or mulch-paved roadway would function as a grand pedestrian boulevard through the park.  The main entrance to the center is through a day lit vestibule at the left side of this entrance.  Directly opposite the main entrance, a window into the nursery building allows visitors to peer in on the environmental machinery at the heart of the island’s restoration program.  Against the nursery wall, a bicycle rack provides the only “parking” on the site, securely within view from the building’s interior.
Upon entering the KIEEC, the guest finds an information booth where staff may explain exhibits, distribute guides or coordinate school field trips.  The visit then proceeds through the main exhibit hall, a twenty-five foot tall, day lit space where permanent or temporary exhibits are arrayed.  The extra height not only favors passive heating/cooling strategies and promotes even daylighting from the north-facing clerestories, it also allows great flexibility in exhibit design.
From the main hall, the visitor has access to two classrooms, the bathrooms, the elevator and a pair of stairs leading up to the mezzanine.  Here, we are directly adjacent to the south court, a gravel-paved, tree-lined outdoor classroom space that also would make a great picnic spot when not in use by the building’s occupants.  The court is accessible through five vestibules arrayed along the south façade.
The tour continues upstairs to the children’s discovery room on the mezzanine.  Here, long views out through the expansive south and east glazing encourage direct nature observation.  Child-height telescopes mounted along the railing allow close-up inspection of flora and fauna, or gazing across the river at distant views.  As the educational center is built atop the highest point along this end of the island, views from the mezzanine will clear the treetops, allowing unobstructed wide-field panoramas.
As part of the interactive aspect of this part of the center, a footbridge continues the tour across the entrance court to an observation deck above the nursery.  A visitor’s curiosity can be satiated here without interfering with the ongoing work.  If, however, the day’s visit includes hands-on contact, a stair connects the observation deck to the nursery floor.  After the visit is over, an exit door returns one to the entry court where the trip commenced.
The nursery itself is a large greenhouse structure with a series of operable awning windows around the perimeter.  These windows would be computer-controlled to moderate the daily climatic conditions inside the space.  An oversize roll-up door permits movement of large items to and from the service roadway.  The environmental machinery necessary to run the aquatic systems is housed in the northern portion of the space, where it is visible to casual passers-by.
The urban park ranger station occupies the remainder of the ground floor of the nursery building.  It would have an independent entrance and vision glazing oriented toward Benning Road for easier surveillance of park traffic.  On the second floor of the nursery building, accessible from a storage space, is an area of north façade dedicated to billboard-type advertising of the center’s activities.  This display area directly faces the busy Benning Road corridor, promoting the center to drivers, Metro riders and itinerants on the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail.
Active promotion and engagement of the public is seen as fundamental to the center’s success and high visibility is crucial to its mission of promoting issues of ecology, conservation and sustainability.  Integration of design principles and environmentally friendly building and operation practices will make the KIEEC a model of and enabler for its role as an environmental education center.

Read more about the KIEEC’s aspects of sustainability.