Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center

Institutional / Cultural

Charlottesville Architect Winning Competition Design

Charlottesville-based non profit Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center of Virginia asked Charlottesville Va architecture firms to compete for the design for their new museum.  HEDS won the commission in a design-build competition with their proposal for the education and exhibit center located in Charlottesville, VA. The winning design merges the building with the hillside in Darden Towe Park. The roofscape, emerges from the hillside, transforms from a green roof into an occupiable roof deck from which visitors can view the Rivanna River. From there, one is symbolically linked to the primary objective of the expedition; to find a water route from the Missouri River to the Pacific.

The new building will house exhibit space, a library and administrative functions and offers stunning views from a lower terrace and exhibition space to the Rivanna River and park landscape.

Winner of the 2018 Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) top Honor Award, jurists were, “enamored by The Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center’s elegance of detail and deep respect for its context. The project achieves a striking balance with a strong form that remains deferential to its landscape, and should be commended for the difficulty inherent in achieving this.”

Also winner of the Central Virginia AIA Honorable Mention Award, jurists commented, “a small project with great aspirations: Simple yet powerful, enriched by beautiful materials, sustainable features made legible, and an appealing modesty, this slope-side abutment exudes a sense of optimism through its relationship to earth and sky.” 

Green Design Enhances Lewis & Clark Story

The Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center provides opportunities to teach visitors about the environment and how to protect it. The design team has sought to enhance this potential by showcasing various sustainable strategies. A series of river-stone steps carry rainwater from the terrace releasing into a riverstone bed. The LCEC has future plans to collect the rainwater in a cister (a strategy used by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello), is one of the sustainable strategies, rendered visible. Collected water will be reused for irrigation.

A vegetated green roof is incorporated. The green roof retains rainwater, releasing it back into the atmosphere without runoff into storm sewers, captures air-born pollutants, releases oxygen, provides habitat, lowers roof temperature (heat island effect), reduces energy use by helping to moderate the building temperature and prolongs the life of the membrane roof.

To reduce electricity usage, LED lights are used throughout. Geothermal technology takes advantage of renewable energy in the form of the earth’s stable temperatures. Couple with ground-sourced heat pumps, these technologies reduce grid-sourced energy usage for the project. Additionally, ducts are tightly sealed and building commissioning will be conducted.

In terms of materials usage, Cambia wood is used for exterior cladding. Donated by Northland Forest Products, it is thermally modified domestic poplar lumber to improve both dimensional stability and decay resistance of wood without the use of chemicals allowing the wood to perform similar to imported hardwoods. Roof decking, bar joists and steel framing employ recycled content (50-100%). Aluminum windows are 100% recycled content. Fly ash is produced during the combustion of coal and is used as a substitute for sand in the concrete mix. Construction waste management was employed and post-occupation recycling stations provided. Shaw Carpet with Green Label Plus Certification, achieving the highest standard for indoor air quality is used in the library. Recycled content in sheetrock walls and in ceiling tiles.

The architect also paid careful attention to the indoor environment using enhanced outdoor air ventilation, moisture control and a balanced distribution of space heating and cooling. Contaminates control was employed during construction.