The $1.1 million Visitors Center, which opened to the public at Fall Fair 1999, is a key component of the New Canaan Nature Center's Master Plan.
An existing 3-bay stucco garage adjacent to the lower parking lot and Greenhouse was renovated into a 1000 square-foot exhibits space on the first floor and administrative offices on the second floor. The space currently houses the Discovery Center hands-on natural science exhibits.
At the opposite end of the Visitors Center is the 1,150 square-foot Catharine Sturgess multipurpose room, which is easily configured for a variety of school programs, meetings and special events.
The central reception and registration area also has a kitchen area and handicapped-accessible restrooms.
The new structure uses stonework, stucco and clapboard to harmonize with the existing architecture on the site. The angled design, a cross between post-modern and colonial, embraces the visitor approaching along the driveway from Oenoke Ridge (route 124).
Window walls of glass and a center cupola create a light-filled, inside-out space that says "nature center." (Rooms can be darkened for programs.) A double facade allows visitors to look out in either direction, either toward the Education Building and central green or toward the Greenhouse, field, marsh and woodland habitats.
Behind the new Visitors Center, a new walkway bridges the upper levels of the administrative offices and Greenhouse, and a landscaped plaza offers outdoor space for groups to assemble.
Funding for the new Visitors Center, as well as renovations to the Education Building and Education Annex and other site improvements, along with an increase to the endowment, was provided by contributions to a $3 million Capital Campaign.
Design architect for the new Visitors Center was Cristina Ross of Corporate Facilities Consultants, Norwalk. Contractor was A. P. Construction, Stamford.