Denver Botanic Gardens–Science Pyramid

The project serves as a place for exhibitions and educational programs for the Gardens. The facility addresses the role of biomimicry in our lives, that is, how natural features in plants and animals inspire innovation and actions in people. 5,258 SF structure has 16 sides, is covered in honeycomb-shaped plates, and is designed further to strengthen the tie between human beings and nature.

The building is the first of its kind. As a result, many systems had to be integrated, refinement of the design continued into the construction phase,
and the project was being done without previous experience working with the cementitious material, Swisspearl, as a building rain- screen over a framing system to create the building enclosure. Teamwork was crucial. Every trade worked on the exterior enclosure. Each hexagonal panel had to be measured with modeling software to adjust to the building’s sloped faces, and cut with a compound miter to achieve minimal tolerance in order to fit the panels to the building shape. The roof layers had to line up with the angular frame below (round primary tubes supported by square secondary tubes), so the panels would appear to fold perfectly over each seam of the pyramid’s walls. During installation, four subcontractors – framer, roofer, glazer, Swisspearl installer – had to continually circle the pyramid making sure that each panel was properly installed at the correct angle for a correct fit.

The exterior is covered in a dark gray cement composite panel material called Swisspearl, often used as siding but here employed as a rain-screen material for the first time. The structure is bisected by a swath of glass, and windows and skylights are located to focus on selected views. The interior is like that of a shiny, white, angled igloo, and is filled with interactive displays and information about the climate and ecosystem in Colorado.

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