Hudson-Meng Bonebed Research Visitor Center
A sustainable, temporary structure provides year-round access to a 10,000 year old bison bonebed while minimizing environmental and visitor impacts.
Oglala National Grasslands, Crawford, Nebraska
1999 Honor Award, AIA Colorado Chapter
1999 Honor Award, AIA Denver Chapter
1999 Honor Award, AIA Western Mountain Region
USDA Forest Service
The Hudson-Meng Bonebed site contains the largest bison bonebed of its age in the western hemisphere, harboring the remains of an extinct 10,000-year-old Plains Bison species. Remains of over 600 bison, along with stone tools and projectiles, have been found, attracting researchers with the U.S. Forest Service. The Education and Research Center is a 7,000 SF temporary structure (designed for easy disassembly and re-assembly on-site) that provides year-round researcher and controlled visitor access to the bonebed while reducing erosion and environmental impacts.
The structure’s current location minimizes disruption to the bonebed while taking advantage of an existing pond for natural screening and site circulation. Located within Nebraska’s rolling hills, a grove of cottonwoods establishes a natural “place.” Trees and hills screen the parking. Visitors leave their cars and move towards the pond along the edge of the trees. A bridge serves as a natural threshold and marks the arrival at the visitor center.
Built of low-tech industrial materials, sustainable design strategies provide natural lighting, ventilation, and water collection for the space. Bowstring trusses span the bonebed floor, hovering over the exterior wall panels sheathed in galvanized corrugated steel, providing a subtle connection to the surrounding architecture and a figural complement to the gently rolling landscape. Natural daylight fills the research facility through transparent wall panels. Coiling overhead doors open to capture natural ventilation. Metal cisterns collect rainwater, then utilized by researchers in cleaning bone specimens. Catwalks along the periphery and a mobile bridge that traverses the bone-bed floor provide access to the bonebed.
Built of low-tech industrial materials, sustainable design strategies provide natural lighting, ventilation, and water collection for the space.