Remotely located to the southeast of Chadron atop a rolling hill of short-grass prairie, the building complex provides much-needed facilities for instructional, office and arena spaces for the Rangeland, Agriculture and Wildlife Program, as well as several student activity groups. The two separate but adjacent buildings house the animal laboratory, a plant and soil science lab, a range herbarium teaching collection and other supporting faculty work areas.
The site takes organizational cues from traditional ranching facilities, aligning its structures along two axes to form a natural windbreak and take advantage of seasonal sun and the natural topography. Recognizing the effect humans and the built environment have on the larger ecosystem, the site utilizes a number of experiential and sustainable methods, including geothermal, solar and wind power, to demonstrate responsible practices for rangeland management that can be applied to a working ranch.
The use of familiar materials such as metal-clad walls, cedar wood siding, board-formed concrete and the rhythm of the exposed wood structure lend life and cultural context to the facility’s roots in the ranching and agricultural tradition. Natural light filters across the main circulation corridor through corncrib siding, terminating in a glass wall offering a view out across the expanding terrain. The westward view from the Live Animals Facility features a covered arbor leading to the southern entrance of the Laboratory. Connecting lab spaces and passageways to the landscape through materiality in this way allows the experience of the building to change nearly as frequently as the surrounding prairie.