From the Jury:
It is made out of the park, but is not afraid to be a bold piece of architecture. It lets the cyclical seasonality of nature determine its figure-eight form in an elegant overlay of program and site.
Acting as a clear gateway to the Arboretum, the Garden Education Center is a space all visitors pass through. This proposal is visibly noninvasive as it burrows into the ground or mounds up into the air without dominating the site. The loop form offers an interesting perspective: Anyone that walks a full loop will have traversed a full 360 degrees and been delivered an informative panorama of the entire site. The essence of the concept is that the cycles of life and the cycles of learning are bound together as mind meets nature in a poetic and memorable way.
Looking at the cycle of nature (the seasons) and the cycle of life (from a child visitor to an elder showing a grandchild the Arboretum), and considering the core mission of the GEC to inspire learning, the architects felt the building should clearly manifest cycles: cycles not simply in a building, but also as an experience, a place, and a destination. To this end, they proposed a figure-eight loop form that acts as a “scaffold” for any number of activities. Rising to two stories in some areas, the design is conceived as a single level wrapped around nature. Highlighting the binary relationship between the natural and the manmade, the structure supports both scientific and observational learning. There could be a weather station above the gift shop; water may be collected in a spiraling trough; a shade structure could add to the comfort of the rooftop gardens. One scenario the architects imagine is a child walking along the loop, gathering climate information, harvesting a vegetable, and entering into a classroom lab, only to return to the loop and plant a new seed.