In collaboration with Terra Design Studios and PNF Architecture + Design LLC
The Environmental Learning Center (ELC) is located a few miles north of Vero Beach and approximately one mile from the Atlantic Ocean on Wabasso Island on the Indian River Lagoon. The Lagoon is considered to be the most diverse estuary in North America, and ELC proudly stewards 64-acres of land surrounded on three sides by its waters. Approximately twelve acres of ELC’s land is classified as upland and can support development; the remaining area is largely protected mangrove forest.
ELC formed a Master Planning Committee comprised of Board members and key staff to provide input to the Planning Team throughout the entire planning process. In addition to leading regular Committee review sessions, the Planning Team conducted multiple interviews with a variety of focus groups, including community leaders, ELC volunteers, and potential donors.
The resulting Master Plan represents the blended vision of key stakeholders and the expertise of the Planning Team and has earned the approval of both the full ELC Board of Directors and full ELC Foundation Board.
The indigenous maritime coastal hammock, from roots to canopy, inspires the Interpretive Center’s design. Walkways that enter and exit the Center, the “roots”, are organic and curving; the building’s broad canopy shades the visitor while drawing them in to experience the vast array of exterior and interior spaces within its canopy. The Center supports lectures, exhibits, education, events, hands-on activities, wellness, and the arts.
The architecture is a “Building as Teacher” concept, utilizing advanced “Green” building techniques while simultaneously employing passive sustainable techniques from historical Florida vernacular. Water feature walls, sunken gardens, natural energy sources and many other aspects of the Interpretive Center are artistically featured for visitors to enjoy experientially while learning about their important functions.