Architecture Program


Date of this Version

May 2005


M. Arch. thesis, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, May 2005


How might one—in creating a built environment—educate others about the natural environment, restore commerce to a dying community, and touch the earth as lightly as possible in the process? The intent of this project is to create an interpretive center for a proposed regional tourism network in a rural Nebraska County. The design will be based on issues of sustainability, including resource conservation, socio-economic improvement, and environmental protection. Specific issues addressed include: Green Buildings, Biomimicry, Mechanical Systems, Construction Methods, Biology and Geology Research and Education, Regional Planning, and Vernacular Buildings. This project, explores how architecture can be used in a rural setting as a way to solve problems of declining economic and environmental conditions in rural areas. Sustainable architecture, as exemplified in the style of Australian architect Glenn Murcutt, is a potential solution to these problems. Such an attraction would bring tourist dollars to revitalize the area economy, educate locals and visitors about the need to preserve this area’s natural resources, and provide an example of practical, environmentally-responsive design for others to emulate. A foundation in Nebraska’s Sandhills region wishes to build an interpretive center on a large rural site near a small Sandhills community that would benefit from the jobs and activity created by such an attraction. The center will include educational facilities to be jointly used by the foundation, the University of Nebraska’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and local community groups. The foundation has requested that the facility include programs that educate visitors about the unique geography of the Sandhills, promote tourism throughout the region, and provide assembly space for group meetings, field trips and educational workshops. The buildings shall be energy-efficient, low-maintenance, and environmentally benign. The facility shall be designed to be built in phases as funding becomes available. The center will serve as the hub for a proposed Sandhills tourism network. In time, there will be three locations with interpretive and educational functions, each in a different general location of the region, to be located along the three major transportation corridors: Highways 2, 20, and 83; and on sites exemplary of three of the Sandhills’ distinct ecological regions: the western high aquifer, the Niobrara valley, and the Loup River system. The facilities will exist to promote other regional attractions rather than to compete with them. The building’s location, just south of the intersection of highways 2 and 83, near the small community of Thedford, NE, includes an abandoned sand quarry, a portion of the Middle Loup River, and tall, majestic sand hills as far as the eye can see. Mentor: William Borner

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