The Centre for Urban Ecology is located in the Humber Arboretum. The Arboretum hosts thousands of visitors each year. In addition to its botanical gardens, the Arboretum provides programmes to educate the public about preservation and stewardship of the natural environment, and promotes public interest in horticulture and gardening. The Centre will house the Arboretum's Urban Environmental Education Program and act as a demonstration model for sustainable architecture and energy-efficient technologies, inspiring Arboretum visitors to consider ways in which their own homes, offices and schools might be made more sustainable. The building has received LEED Gold Certification.
The project seeks to blur the distinction between natural and man-made elements. Floor-to-ceiling windows create a seamless transition between the indoors and the out-of-doors. The Centre's solid, lower walls reach out into the Arboretum to form a courtyard which provides shaded gathering and seating space for class groups and for visitors to the Arboretum. Planted with native grasses and architectural in form, the walls extend the building into the landscape. The structured use of archetypal native tree species in the courtyard allows nature and ideas about nature to exist within an architectural aesthetic.
The outdoor plantings act as part of the building's cooling system. The building's septic tank, biofilter and rainwater cistern are inserted into the courtyard to serve as outdoor interpretive displays of the building's sustainable features. The insertion of these functional features, ensures that the landscape, like the building is an educational opportunity.
design team project design: Jill Taylor, Pat Hanson, and Diana Gerrard (landscape), with Taylor Hazell Architects as Prime Consultant, and architects Alliance as associated architectural firm.