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'Structure of Species' exhibition highlights ISU students' nature center proposals at McFarland Park

October 30, 2015


The slatted hardwood facade of third-year architecture student Luke Keeble's "Bat Inhabitation" mimics the peeling bark of trees that are home to the endangered Indiana bat.

AMES, Iowa — Can a nature center embody the wildlife and habitat it aims to educate visitors about? A group of Iowa State University architecture students has developed proposals for a nature center at McFarland Park that "actively participates in the life around it and contributes to a much larger non-human system."

Sixteen students in the third-year undergraduate architectural design studio, taught by Lecturer Leslie Forehand, have investigated four indigenous species—the smoky winged beetle bandit wasp, the North American river otter, the Indiana bat and the sedge wren—that display a range of nest-building and –siting techniques (their "architecture" and use of landscape) and represent unstable relationships with humans and the surrounding built environment.

"Taking cues from these species' typical dwellings, each student proposed a small nature center that aims to realign our relationships with animals and insects and develop new methods for coexistence," Forehand said. "They incorporated their observations into a functional space that can serve nature by raising awareness and public visibility of our local species and their critical role in our ecosystem."

The students' proposals will be exhibited in "The Structure of Species: A Nature Center in McFarland Park," Nov. 2 through Jan. 15 at the Story County Conservation Center at McFarland Park, 56461 180th St., northeast of Ames. An opening reception will be from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13.

Student Luke Keeble's "Bat Inhabitation" nature center was inspired by University of Buffalo architecture professor Joyce Hwang's "Bat Tower" in Griffs Sculpture Park near Buffalo, New York.

"Hwang's intent was to take the ordinary bat house and transform it into an architectural object while keeping its functionality," said Keeble, Rock Valley.

His proposed structure features a slatted hardwood facade with oak hardwood flooring and white wall paneling indoors.

"The Indiana bat's natural habitat is under the peeling bark of trees like the shagbark hickory, so hardwood became the obvious choice to resemble its natural habitat," Keeble said. "The slats in the facade are spaced so the bats could crawl between them, which resembles how they crawl under the bark of trees."

"The Structure of Species" show will include presentation boards and a site model of the park. The exhibition and reception are free and open to the public.

Jerry Keys, Story County Conservation, (515) 232-2516,
Leslie Forehand, Architecture, (515) 294-8786,
Luke Keeble, Architecture student,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,