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AIA Finalist: Heifer International Education Center

2 min read

PROJECT: Heifer International Education Center
FIRM: Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, Ltd.
LOCATION: Little Rock

Heifer’s Education Center, like the headquarters (2006), exemplifies a sustainable mission where “passing on the gift” of animals and education creates “concentric rings of influence” throughout a village, like a pebble hitting water. The four-phase master plan and the center’s layered plan results in an architecture rippling in rings of use and meaning throughout the site.

Located on a former rail yard, the center functions like a train terminal pavilion where visitors will buy their tickets to the world, the future phase three Global Village. Researching Heifer’s structures globally uncovered a simple elegance in constructing just what is needed, leading to expressed systems as part of an honest story.

The main building anchor, a two-foot thick curved concrete wall, represents the barrier between industrialized nations and the world where the majority of humans live. Floating lightly from the wall, a timber roof is freed and separated by a continuous skylight, bathing the wall and reflecting light onto exhibits. Exhibits breach the Commons — the World Circle — engaging the public in a giant porch.

Tree columns branch out, gently touching the pine roof canopy, extending the tree grove into the building form. The inverted roof (designed for a future green roof) directs rainwater to sculptural concrete spillways. Crafted into the wall, the spillways create iconic symbols for environmental stewardship: water falling on man’s creation starts the entire wetland process.

A contaminated urban area is now a thriving ecosystem; symbiosis between man-made and nature is achieved.

Maximizing sunlight while conserving water and energy, the Education Center allows visitors to expand their knowledge of worldwide sustainable issues, while calling for all to work together as equals in a broader world circle.

Owner/Client: Heifer International
Project Team: Reese Rowland, AIA; David Porter, AIA; Ed Sergeant, Assoc. AIA; Sarah Bennings, AIA; Patty Opitz, AIA
Photographer: Timothy Hursley

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