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The Arboretum at Penn State strives to promote quality of life by seeking, through scholarship, research, and education, collaborative solutions to growing demands on the natural landscape and its resources. As a place of beauty in a rapidly expanding metropolitan area, and educational facility, and a microcosm of the human/nature continuum in settled landscapes, the Penn State Arboretum shall strive to become an interdisciplinary ‘institute for land health’ of state, regional, and perhaps national significance.
GUND Partnership worked with The Arboretum at Penn State to design a new Education Center, Conservatory and Planetarium. Sited within the 360-acre Arboretum, the Complex creates a gateway to Penn State and a physical and symbolic link to the rest of the campus. The major venues of the new complex—the Education Center, Multi-Purpose Complex, Conservatory and Planetarium—exist as stand-alone resources and also as a comprehensive visitor experience linked by a continuous exhibit path. To reinforce connections between the built form and the surrounding natural environment, the organization of the building components creates and contains a series of outdoor spaces. Diverse outdoor environments, framed by the building components, provide students and visitors with contemplative spaces and areas to gather informally, inexorably linked to the surrounding landscape.
The Education Center will be the heart of the Arboretum’s educational programs and will serve as the focus for all visitors and students entering the Arboretum. The Conservatory will serve as an icon of the Arboretum. It will provide visitors with an immersive and memorable glasshouse experience, leading visitors through the evolution of Pennsylvania’s natural environments. The Planetarium, or Digital Visualization Theatre, will become a vital multi-disciplinary, multi-purpose resource for the university and community, with best-in-class projection capabilities that will make the facility one of only a dozen or so of its kind in the world.