Page E1.1 . 18 April 2001                     
ArchitectureWeek - Environment Department



Environmental Refuge

by Diane M. Fiske

The new Cusano Environmental Education Center sends a message from its wetlands setting near Philadelphia: that environmentally sound construction can be attractive and not necessarily expensive.

The center is an oasis on a site that could be an environmentalist's nightmare. The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is the most urban refuge in the United States, with giant jets from the nearby Philadelphia International Airport buzzing overhead.

But, thanks to sensitively integrated site and building design, the recently completed environmental center projects a surprising atmosphere of Japanese-garden-like tranquility. The project is a multifaceted study in using recycled materials and rejuvenating damaged land.

The 18,000-square-foot (1700-square-meter) building was designed by Muscoe Martin, AIA of the Philadelphia firm of Susan Maxman & Partners, Ltd. Architects. The extensive site design was done by landscape architect Jose Alminana. The cost was $212 per square foot ($2300 per square meter) for construction and site development.

To Alminana, a principal in Andropogan Associates, a Philadelphia landscape architecture firm, the project offered an opportunity he had always dreamed about: "to restore a place that had been disturbed and to bring it back."



ArchWeek Photo

Sun shades on the environmental education center.
Photo: Susan Maxman & Partners

ArchWeek Photo

The Cusano Environmental Education Center near the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge restores damaged wetlands.
Photo: Susan Maxman & Partners


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