Saturday, November 28, 2020

Concepts for Preserving Clean Air and Water and Creating Great Places

Seven Islands State Birding Park

Seven Islands Interpretive Center
Seven Islands Interpretive Center
The interpretive center design seeks to create a public space that connects to the existing site through sensory and natural processes. This is achieved through analysis and incorporation of the water, solar, vegetative, and climatic cues that the landscape provides. The goal is a place where people feel connected to nature.
Interpretative Center at Night
Interpretative Center at Night
The purpose of this proposed interpretive center is to introduce visitors to the experiences that await them at the park. This center was designed with site integration and regenerative systems in mind. These systems treat water, generate energy, and utilize reclaimed materials to make a self-sufficient building. Consideration was also given to treating the center as a minimal intrusion on the existing context while operating as the “gateway” to place. This preserves existing views, while framing new experiences.
Interpretive Center Rainfall Walkway
Interpretive Center Rainfall Walkway
The interpretive center conceptual design provides for many ways for visitors to the site to understand the way in which built structures can work with the natural environment.
Birding Observation Areas
Birding Observation Areas
Located beside the French Broad River, a wooden structure with a large window and constructed nesting platforms could offer visitors a place to observe Canada Geese and other migratory fowl.
Conceptual Wind Observatory
Conceptual Wind Observatory
This structure is a wind observatory dedicated to an understanding of seasonal variation. It also incorporates a bicycle rental and parking station.

Seven Islands State Birding Park:
Concepts for Preserving Clean Air
and Water and Creating Great Places


University of Tennessee, Knoxville,
Architecture Program and
Landscape Architecture Program

About this Project

The Seven Islands State Birding Park (formerly Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge) is a 360-acre wildlife sanctuary located less than 20 miles east of Knoxville on former farmland along the French Broad River. Though designated as a wildlife sanctuary, the property offers low-impact recreation opportunities to the public. Its recreational assets include wildlife observation, hiking, and a small boat launch. Home to many species of birds, fish, and mammals, the site also functions as an educational and research facility for land use and habitat management techniques.

Available Resources

A project website was created by the students and can be visited at:

Regional Greenways Poster Download the poster:

Concepts for Preserving Clean Air and Water and Creating Great Places: Seven Islands State Birding Park


Architecture and landscape architecture students from the University of Tennessee and University of Krakow (Poland) explored the park’s habitats and created design programs and projects for public education and ecological interpretation. The student work included site analysis of environmental systems, and design of an interpretive center and nature observatories. 

Project Objectives

  • To instill an understanding of landscapes as part of dynamic, natural processes.
  • To enable visitors to experience habitats as they unfold in walking through the refuge.
  • To provide-low impact building development that complements natural resources.

Students created designs for an interpretive center that would:

  • Define the vehicular entrance to the refuge.
  • Lend an understanding to the rich history of regional and local landforms, soils, vegetation, water resources and climate. 
  • Serve as the place to orient visitors to the assets of the park, its trails and observatories. 
  • Provide a place for education and community events. 
  • Showcase environmentally sensitive design measures, including solar panels, rain harvesting and water reuse. 
  • Feature education facilities, including bird feeding platforms, classrooms, exhibition space, and a laboratory to conduct research and testing on site.

Paths currently exist and others were designed as means to allow access through the various landscape types, leading to on-site observatories. Students’ designs are intended to celebrate the range of landscape characteristics, encouraging understanding of the unique ecosystems of the refuge. They seek to recognize patterns and variations of wildlife habitat in relation to the seasons and land forms, such as fields, ponds, wetlands, upland forests and the river. With time, these observatories may allow long-term interpretation of environmental change.

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Copyright 2013 by Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission
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