The 654-acre Nature Preserve at Latta Plantation first opened in 1981 and was designated “Latta Plantation Nature Preserve” in 1997. “Quest” will serve as the gateway to the Latta Plantation Nature Preserve and function as the source for educational programming and visitor information for the entire Preserve. Quest will also be the new home of the Carolina Raptor Center and will function as the entryway to the Raptor aviary trails, outdoor classrooms, and demonstration areas. The 3/4 mile Raptor Trail is home to one of the largest permanent collections of raptors in the country with 35 native and exotic species, engaging visitors about the importance of raptors in our environment.
The design inspiration for the project is in some ways reminiscent of low-slung farm buildings common in rural North Carolina. A simple, but modern material palette is intended to weather over time to further blend into the site. The slenderness of the 13,250 square foot building and architectural gestures into the landscape serve to both anchor the building into its place while
also stretching into the broader trail systems of the site. The verticality of the entrance feature serves as a welcoming visual cue to arriving visitors.
The building program serves to support the operations of the Nature Center and Carolina Raptor Center by providing educational and exhibit space illuminating the collective mission of sustainability. Classroom and meeting space will be used for environmental learning and activities for people of all ages. A large (+/-8,000 gallon) indoor aquarium will display freshwater lake species and represent the unique habitats within the preserve. The exhibit components will be changed to accommodate seasonal messaging. The interior exhibits will lead to an outdoor space, which will take the form of an educational playscape designed to complement the existing natural environment. The experience within the building is intended to be fleeting as the ultimate goal is to encourage the public to get outdoors to explore and appreciate our natural world.