48 ISSUE 1 • 2020 • WOOD IN ARCHITECTURE MATERIALS & TECHNOLOGY “SMALL THINGS MATTER” The Oregon Zoo Education Center creates a regional hub of environmental learning and activity to excite and inspire the inner conservationist in visitors. The project communicates the immensely broad and complex concepts of sustainability and natural habitat conservation. T he central theme of the Oregon Zoo Education Center is “Small Things Matter”, which guides the zoo’s 1.6 million visitors through interactive exhibits that demonstrate how each individual’s daily actions can make a difference in sustaining a healthy planet. “From the beginning,” said Opsis Architecture's founding partner, Alec Holser, AIA, “the programme for the Oregon Zoo Education Center informed the design team’s approach. Its mission is all about education, so the building became a platform for delivering a message around climate change, habitat preservation, and other issues.” The centre provides a home base for thousands of children who participate in camps and classes annually, and serves as a regional hub, expanding the zoo’s youth programmes through collaborations with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and other partners. The centre includes classrooms, meeting spaces, gardens and a Nature Exploration Station (NESt), and inspires visitors to get outside, learn about nature and take action on behalf of the environment. In addition, the Education Center hosts lectures and film screenings while also serving as the entry point for school groups visiting the zoo. Some of the zoo’s signature education programmes include ZooSchool, Zoo Animal Presenters (ZAP) and ZooTeens are housed at the education center. Theprojectwasdesignedthroughadialogue between the built and natural environment, centering on the idea that humans connect to nature with both minds and hearts. Each interior space has a corresponding and connected outside space for learning, interaction, imagination and play. The zoo’s mission to inspire action on behalf of wildlife drove the choice of materials, but with consideration given to cost efficiency. In fact, wood fulfills two critical roles.