The Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre is the first building to come into view as one enters a 200-acre resort belonging to the Osoyoos Indian Band Reserve. The building was intended to embody the identity and spirit of the community and express a contemporary image of the Osoyoos people and their continually transforming culture. Given the fragility of the surrounding 1600-acre desert conservation area, the architects sought to incorporate elements that were in harmony with the landscape and that communicated the connection between nature and humans.
The project’s “spine” is an enormous earth-rammed wall, the largest of its type in North America, which is constructed from local soils mixed with concrete. The wall retains warmth in the winter and allows for sustainable thermal mass cooling in the building during the summer. The partially buried structure also mitigates the region’s extremes in temperature, which could range from -18C to +33C, while its orientation optimizes passive solar performance. In-slab radiant cooling and heating reduces energy use substantially, and low-flow fixtures and waterless urinals contribute to water use reduction, which is especially important in the desert. Blue-stained pine from local forests devastated by the infestation of the pine beetle line the building’s recessed entry.
The building features indoor and outdoor exhibits that honour the cultural history of the Band while it is sited as to focus the visitor’s eye away from the nearby encroaching development and on to the desert. The building’s habitable green roof reduces the building’s visual imprint on the landscape and allows part of the desert’s habitat to be reestablished on the site. Endangered species research is housed on site and includes facilities for the Band’s awardwinning rattlesnake research project. Included are public viewing areas where visitors can see endangered rattlesnakes captured, tagged and microchipped for further study and protection.