Award Winner - May 2009
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A Return to Nature

Trinity River Audubon Center
Dallas, Texas

S U B M I T T E D    B Y

BRW Architects in Dallas

Size: 20,000 square feet (building) 120 acres (site)

Project Cost: $13 million

Quick Tour:

  • Visitor services area
  • Administration area
  • Environmental education area
  • Building services
  • Exhibit hall


  • Teaching/lunch shelter Bird blind
  • Treehouse
  • DeckDiscovery Garden
  • Photo blinds
  • Locker/shower
  • Parking


estled like a bird in its surrounding landscape, the new Trinity River Audubon Center is a testament to designing within the context of the natural environment. Beyond its relationship to the site, the new facility—built over a former illegal landfill site—brings a shared space for education and passive recreation that represents a true example of change and hope to the Southeast Dallas community.

The facility's living laboratory will host thousands of school children each year and will provide a gathering place for community events, connecting the urban community with a green environment that most never realized was there.

Built on the site of the former Deepwood landfill, the site contained more than 1.5 million tons of construction debris, but you'd never know that to look at it now. The waste was consolidated into capped rolling hills replanted with tall prairie grass and hardwood trees, while clay-lined ponds were added to attract wildlife and allow rainwater and runoff to collect, be cleansed and flow back into the nearby Trinity River. Visitors can enjoy the new scenery from observation areas inside and out, along with 2.5 miles of walking trails that lead them deeper into the forest and ultimately into closer contact with the nature that surrounds them. A bird blind offers a chance to stop and engage with the surroundings, while gardens and a treehouse provide other opportunities to connect with nature.

With nature as the central theme, it is essential to note that it was planned for LEED Gold certification, with sustainable features such as site reclamation, a vegetative roof, a rainwater collection system for native landscaping, natural daylighting, the use of recycled-content and locally manufactured materials, energy-efficient systems and restoration of the natural ecosystem.

The concept for the building design embraces the three major environmental biomes of North Texas: restored black-land prairies, cross-timbers forest and river-bottom marshy wetlands. The restored ecosystem inspires the building concept, as the views from inside constantly reveal a new look at the surrounding natural habitat.

Featuring an exhibit hall, Great Hall, gift shop, conference and meeting rooms, as well as laboratories and classrooms and headquarters for Texas Audubon, the building is connected to miles of trails through an elevated footbridge. From the exhibit room on the southern end of the building, visitors are beckoned to look and listen through openings in the exterior walls. And with the facility's canted glass, even when they are indoors, visitors are always in the presence of the forest that surrounds them.


W H A T   T H E   J U D G E S   S A I D

A masterful piece of art. Bold exterior forms with a rich contemporary blend of materials that harmonize with the natural surroundings express and complement the building's unique geometry. The dynamic floor plan reflects the building's massing. The interior and exterior composition form seamlessly with each other. A wonderful selection of exterior and interior building materials. A tremendous project that is a true testimony to art, nature and sustainability in the spirit of passive recreation!

Tom Poulos

Excellent example of 'The Machine in the Garden'—I enjoy its sensitivity to the landscape and its commitment to stewardship of the land.

Bob McDonald

This passive-recreation-based facility demonstrates excellent siting, highlighting significant biomes of the region, and integration of recreation and education.

David Burch

A place to observe nature—inside sculpture; wonderful passive recreation.

Greg Houston

A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S

Design Architect:

Antoine Predock Architects

Structural Engineer:

Jaster-Quintanilla Dallas

Environmental/Civil/MEP Engineer:

URS Corporation

Exhibit Planner:

Lyons/Zaremba Inc.

Archeology/History Consultant:


Trail Planning:

Bowman-Melton Associates

General Contractor:

Sedalco Construction Services

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