City of St. Louis Park

Westwood Hills Nature Center

Westwood Hills Nature Center (WHNC) is a 160-acre nature park featuring prairie, forest and marsh areas, with trails and an educational center. WHNC sought to replace their small, aging facility with a new building whose overarching purpose and vision is connecting people to nature. HGA’s site design expands an existing specimen prairie, creates an outdoor classroom space on the site of the old building, and provides expanded parking for visitors to the new facility. The building forms an experiential and informational threshold to the site. Together, the architectural and site design serve to reinforce visitors’ connection to their landscape.

WHNC’s programming is education-focused, and the heart of the building is formed by a series of multipurpose rooms that will be used for environmental learning classrooms and public events. The new interpretive center will provide expanded public exhibit space and flexible learning spaces for a variety of environmental learning programming for students ranging from preschoolers to seniors. Staff offices, raptor mews and additional support spaces will be included to support programming.

Part of a City effort towards a sustainable future, WHNC will serve as an exemplar for sustainability strategies. Targeting Zero Energy certification, HGA’s design provides a high-performance building envelope, form and layout to take advantage of solar and wind angles on site. Energy use is offset by rooftop solar photovoltaic panels. These and other sustainable features are expressed in the design to serve as a teaching tool for visitors.