Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitors Center
Client:U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Awards :2005 Merit Award for Excellence in Architecture; American Institute of Architects, Alaska Chapter
This 35,000 SF facility is situated in a small Alaskan coastal community and is to serve as an example of a successful federal/state partnership including a public outreach component serving the region. Programmatically, it is divided into three distinct functional components: Headquarters/Research Offices; Visitor Facilities; Educational Program Spaces. The building is situated on a natural bluff. Occupied spaces are arranged along the southern façade to maximize access to the view of Kachemak Bay. The intent is for all occupants to feel a connection with coastal Alaska, which is central to the mission of both agencies. The building thus orients itself toward the sea coast, and turns its back on the adjacent highway. The coastal façade is open and inviting, while the urban façade incorporates solid sound buffer walls that reinforce the permanence of the institutions housed within. The upper and lower floors remain connected visually by means of open areas or overlooks. The main building circulation is articulated through the linkages directly to natural light through clerestory windows. The site plan further reinforces these connections to nature with obvious access to interpretive trails and other outdoor amenities. The building was also programmed as an important community element, to be embraced as having a distinct local identity. The community has a strong historical association with artisans, so a program was initiated by the design team to commission original works within the building to integrate with the architecture. The seamless result has been well received.