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Frank Harmon Architect PA

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New Pavilion for Prairie Ridge Eco-Station Protects Garden, Visitors & Environment

"Protection was a recurring theme throughout the project." -- architectural intern David Cole

Raleigh, NC, September 26, 2007 --( Wildlife and wildlife habitat demonstration gardens have a fundamental problem: the former wants to eat the latter.

That was the case at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science’s Prairie Ridge Ecostation for Wildlife & Learning, where deer and other critters were enjoying the native plants in the garden a bit too much. To solve the problem, Frank Harmon, FAIA, the architect for all other structures at Prairie Ridge, gave two young interns in his Raleigh office a challenge: Design a small (300 square-foot) pavilion with improved deer fencing that would (1) serve as a gateway to the garden without obstructing the view of the prairie beyond, (2) provide shelter for visitors during inclement weather, (3) demonstrate principles of sustainable design that future structures on the site will emulate, and (4) do it all in such a simple, straightforward manner that visitors can see how they might recreate something similar back home.

And since Frank Harmon is known for teaching design from the inside out, he gave the future architects one more challenge: Whatever they designed, they also would build.

One long summer later, the Prairie Ridge pavilion at 4301 Reedy Creek Road is almost ready to welcome visitors to the new, relocated habitat demonstration garden.

‘”The first thing we proposed was to shrink the garden to a more manageable size,” said intern David Cole, 26, who worked with fellow intern Will Lambeth, 21, on the project, “and to locate it where the pavilion could serve as a gathering point for visitors on self-guided tours.”

For the new location, Cole and Lambeth designed a pressure-treated wood structure with steel tie member that includes an 8-foot by 16-foot platform covered by a sloping 22-foot by 14-foot “green” or vegetated roof. A pair of large, sliding doors, which close the pavilion up at night, and new plastic deer fencing around the garden protect the plants by keeping the critters out.

The green roof also serves as an experiment for a larger version that will be used on the future Prairie Ridge Lodge, a 40-student residential dormitory with housing for teachers and visiting researchers, a large multi-purpose room, a wet lab, staff offices, and site exhibits. Like Harmon’s first structure at Prairie Ridge – the award-winning Open Air Classroom -- the lodge will demonstrate the symbiotic relationship between built and natural environments by embracing “green,” or sustainable building technology, which produces buildings that are as healthy for the environment as they are for the people who use them.

Covered in plant materials native to the Prairie Ridge site, the pavilion’s roof will feed a rainwater collection cistern. Yet despite the roof’s weight – over 20,000 pounds, according to the interns – the edge greeting visitors is tapered thin to protect the view of the prairie.

“Protection was a recurring theme throughout the project,” Cole noted. “The pavilion and fence protect the garden, the pavilion protects visitors from rain or hot summer sun, the green roof and cisterns help protect and conserve the natural water supply, and the thinness of the roof edge protects the view.”

Cole and Lambeth, joined Frank Harmon Architect this spring. Originally from Charlotte, NC, Cole moved to Raleigh in 1999 to pursue a master’s degree in architecture at North Carolina State University’s College of Design. Lambeth, a Greensboro native, is a rising senior at NCSU.

“This is the best place I could ask to be,” Lambeth said about his position in the firm. “I love Frank’s work. There’s such substance in it, rather than just flash. I also like the size of his office, and I enjoy the types of scales he works in. All of his projects are very client-based.”

The Museum of Natural Science has announced “We’re Growing Again” on its website, and is inviting the public to “visit us and watch the progress of this exciting project.”

For more information on Prairie Ridge, visit

For more informatlon on Frank Harmon Architect, visit

Contact Information
Frank Harmon Architect
Kim Weiss, blueplate pr

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