The first time I went to the Denver Botanic Gardens, it was the middle of winter. I was 16 and visiting my brother who was at work for the day. Though snow had settled on many of the bushes, there was still fauna to view and a greenhouse in which to escape the chill. But I would be lying if I didn't say that I wondered what the draw was in the cold months (Blossoms of Light withstanding).
Starting in late spring 2014, there will be a brand new reason to pay that admission fee—all year-round. Construction started this month on a science pyramid (official name TBD) that will showcase the behind-the-scenes research the Gardens is recognized for around the world. (Did you know, for instance, that communities worldwide seek out their scientists for info on plant life in steppe—dry, mid-latitude—climates?) "The public hasn't really seen that side of what we do," says CEO Brian Vogt. "When the organization started, it was about science. This will give us a voice, finally, for that unsung part of the Gardens."
And what a voice it will be. Denver's Burkett Design architecture firm came up with a 3,800-square-foot space that mimics nature in the most fascinating ways. The exterior's four-foot-wide, hexagon-shaped composite panels are based on biomimicry (pulling imagery and design from nature) and meant to resemble honeycombs. The overall result is two sides that are reminiscent of tectonic plates and photovoltaic collectors that gather energy for the exhibits. There are portholes made of electro-chromic glass that transform from crystal clear to 97 percent opacity at the (literal) flip of a switch; after sundown, the windows will lighten to showcase the interior. On the east side, bright yellow metal flowers will open at sunrise to provide shade over the portholes for cooling, and then close at night.
The pyramid (included in admission) will also remind people that the Gardens is an accredited museum. Visitors will interact with touchscreens and hands-on stations to learn about topics such as how water is distributed in Colorado and pollination. The building will also be the new home for the Omniglobe Display.
Get the point? There will be a lot to do in the Gardens in the winter now.
Heads up: An outdoor cafe should sprout next to the Monet Pool in late spring 2014.
—Rendering courtesy of Burkett Design
Follow associate editor Daliah Singer on Twitter at @daliahsinger.