Denver Botanic Gardens Science Pyramid

Submitted by Ben Niamthet

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Client: Denver Botanic Gardens

Location: Denver, CO, United States

Completion date: 2014

Project Team

Industry Resource

GH Phipps Construction

Architect

Ben Niamthet

Burkett Design

Overview

The 5,258 sf Science Pyramid design was selected in a formal design competition conducted by the CEO and Board of Trustees of the Denver Botanic Gardens. The challenge was to design a science pyramid that was “iconic, a gem in the middle of the gardens”, that would educate visitors on local climate and ecology in an interactive space highlighting the extensive scientific work being done at the gardens. The building needed to be a landmark while remaining in harmony with the Gardens’ landscape. The design mimics nature both aesthetically and functionally.

Goals

The Denver Botanic Gardens Science Pyramid reflects a blend of progressive design, sustainable technologies and biomimetic principles that mirror the building’s purpose – education of “citizen scientists”. The interior houses a variety of interactive learning exhibits and artwork that educates visitors about the local climate and ecosystems. The design and systems use current technology for presentations while being adaptable for future technology. The elements of sustainability of the building are used for learning opportunities for visitors. An additional goal for the Science Pyramid was to bring scientists and botanists together.

Process

The Science Pyramid was both conceptually and functionally inspired by nature. The facade was developed to mimic the hexagonal structure of a honeycomb. The pyramid’s two peaks and 16 facets twist and turn towards the sky as if it was a result of the earth’s colliding tectonic plates or how a plant sprout would penetrate the ground surface. Located in the center of the gardens, the pyramid’s proportions are an inverse of the adjacent amphitheater, creating perfect harmony between the building and the surrounding landscape. The pyramid is nested adjacent to an existing pond, and the building’s glass spine bisects the building to maintain views of the water feature and gardens through the building. Both the exterior and interior were designed and constructed to create an iconic structure to house exhibits featuring the Gardens' conservation and research efforts.

Additional Information

The pyramid has a rainscreen roof in a multi-sloped condition. Energy efficiency is provided by continuous insulation within the 20” thick assembly. To conserve energy, a structural thermal break anchors the cladding subframing to the building structure wherever connections penetrate the insulation layer. This offset rainscreen is conducive to a ventilating effect, cooling the surface of the secondary membrane and drying moisture below the cladding. The windows change from clear to opaque to reduce solar heat gain and provide viewing of the gardens. Hexagonal Building Integrated Photovoltaic Panels contribute to the design.