This pioneering nature discovery area takes interaction with and interpretation of the natural environment to a new high for New Mexican children of all ages. Building from Audubon Southwest’s mission to provide hands on, nature-based science education, the Discovery Area takes children on an immersive journey through ephemeral tenaja pools, inside pine cones and acorns, and up into the sky for a bird’s eye view of the Santa Fe National Forest.
The design process for this project has been just as important as the product. Several activities were conceived to engage with visitors at the center and area families and youth to better understand how the design of the NDA could increase their knowledge and interaction with the wildlife and natural elements on the property, including a “weave your path” installation, Santa Fe’s first pop up nature playground, and an interactive 3D physical model of the site and design.
Designed in collaboration with Bonsai Design and Audubon staff, the treehouse is a one of a kind design. Natural materials including wood, rope/netting and steel create a forest themed experience, where visitors can imagine they are insects, squirrels or birds exploring a tree at multiple scales. While major goals for the project were focused on creating an immersive playful and educational experience, safety and inclusive access were also top priority. Work on the NDA also included the addition of universal access from the main Center buildings to the Pavilion and into the discovery area. All team members worked carefully to ensure elements of the NDA will be documented and in compliance with the applicable ADA, ASTM and CPSC requirements.