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Bolsa Chica Wetlands Center

by Laura Alvarez (now Squillace) — Alternate to Winner


Positioned along the Pacific Flyway, the Bolsa Chica Wetlands Center is a sanctuary for migratory birds & aquatic species that traverse the coast of Southern California. This Center is to be the first of a series of proposed wildlife museums along this migratory route in order to create awareness as well as protection.

The form has been generated from the various site and social conditions present including sun, wind, light, community access, view corridors and noise concerns. Siting adjacent to the highway assists in both access and visibility while minimizing impact on sensitive habitat. The Center acts as a transition, sheltering itself from traffic noise while opening up and embracing the wetlands.

At the heart of the Center is the community room, a meditative and educational space for all those who have supported and will continue to protect this natural amenity. To best serve and respect it’s neighbors, the Bolsa Chica Center connects the wetlands to the broader community with a trail system and active educational programs on both environmental stewardship and sustainable building.

A massive trombe wall runs the entire length of the Wetlands Center, filtering natural daylight so that the museum receives ample but dappled diffuse light. The 2’ foot deep wall is made of a lattice of Giant Compressed Earth Blocks that filter daylight and maximize thermal mass. Perforations in the wall with operable vent panels allow for the controlled dispersion of heat and coolth that are passively collected from the south-facing sunspace.

Within this sunspace is a living machine that purifies effluents from the neighborhood and highway run-off that would otherwise pollute the wetland. The plants that grow in this constructed wetland naturally filter the air from the highway prior to being vented into the museum.

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