Home to the Nature Conservancy’s cow-calf ranch and educational center, the Red Canyon Ranch facility near Lander, Wyoming, required a design that reflected a sense of place and minimized impact on the land, while accommodating a diverse user group. Conceptualized as a ‘stop-along-the-way’ en route to the brim of the canyon, the ranch building was intended to serve as a living classroom for conservation principles in much the same way that the conserved, resource-rich canyon itself does. The trailhead road is expressed through exposed aggregate in the concrete floors that represents its would-be path as it runs through the Red Canyon Ranch building. The locally-sourced rammed earth walls that comprise the structure’s exterior envelope not only help reduce environmental impact by minimizing construction waste, heat/cooling loss, and overall carbon emissions, but also help lessen the visual impact of the building on the landscape as they seamlessly blend with their natural surroundings. To further integrate the building into its canyon panorama and evoke a sense of place, architects chose ungalvinized corrugated mild steel for the roof trellis and panels, allowing them naturally to develop the reddish patina of age.
The building’s green features go far beyond the red rammed earth walls. Waterless composting toilets, a grey water disposal system used for irrigating onsite vegetation, compact fluorescent and indirect halogen lighting fixtures, and a high-efficiency, locally-designed wood burning boiler and stove all contribute to the building’s low-impact eco-friendly design.