Audubon Arizona’s new community learning center “connects people with nature” in a surprising number of ways, and in a surprisingly beautiful environment.
Perched at the edge of Phoenix’s recently reclaimed and restored Rio Salado Habitat, the Center embodies Audubon’s sustainability messages from the inside to the outside: from its educational messages to the clean, elegant exhibit design to the Center’s “green,” LEED Platinum-certified building and surrounding interpretive environment.
Interpretation is based on the fundamental theme of water in the desert: Water means life…it defines habitats and enables community and population growth for all species. Audubon Arizona’s premier exhibition, “Water’s Changing Journey,” interactively explores these themes as well as several critical water conservation concepts.
As visitors stroll the interpretive trails, they view and learn about the wildlife that is increasingly attracted to the lush riparian habitat; they can consider the Rio Salado and its distant, upland headwaters, and learn about the river’s importance to the growth and development of the City of Phoenix. Several engaging activities are integrated along the path or at viewing stations. Inside the building, four changeable “participation stations” branch out from a unique, freshwater aquarium that houses native fish species. At each station, guests learn about water conservation and consider simple actions that they can do to help avert water waste and water pollution, as well as attract and support native wildlife to their own neighborhoods. Computers provide curious visitors with opportunities to “drill down” for more in-depth information, learn more about Important Bird Areas in Arizona and, especially, discover details about native bird species that they may spot on the grounds or in the adjacent Rio Salado Habitat.
The Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center is designed to be a multi-purpose learning space that comfortably accommodates individual guests and families as well as organized groups for tours, programs and events. In the course of developing exhibits for the Audubon Center, Ganymede thought seriously about the diverse audiences that would be served. Audubon is an international organization whose passionate members are known to travel widely to experience nature in general and birds in particular. Add to this, Audubon Arizona strategically positioned the center in support of its commitment to delivering hands-on experiences with nature to its urban constituency. Tourists and residents, old and young, many needs and interests: all can be accommodated by the variety of interior and exterior elements that were conceived, designed and produced by Ganymede Design Group in collaboration with Audubon staff.
President’s Award for Special Achievement in Environmental Excellence (2010) Valley Forward Association
Award of Merit: Environmental Education/Communication — “Water’s Changing Journey” (2010) Valley Forward Association