The Nature Place

Reading, PA

Classrooms, outdoor rooftop classroom, preschool, multipurpose space
Lobby, conference rooms, offices, support spaces
Nature play area, trails through wetlands and natural habitats
LEED Gold Certified
Berks Nature
Feasibility Study, Programming, Site Analysis, Fundraising Materials, Cost Estimating, Sustainable Design, Interior Design, Full Design Services, Construction Administration, Building Information Modeling

A working example of conservation principles and sustainable development, the Nature Place embodies Berks Nature’s belief that nature is essential to our quality of life.

Constructed in two phases, orientation of the building celebrates the environment, providing panoramic views of the surrounding wetlands, making a visual connection with the nearby Neversink Mountain, and maximizing daylighting. Sited adjacent to an existing building within Angelica Park, the LEED Gold certified first phase—complete with classrooms, conference rooms, offices, outdoor learning spaces, and nature play area—allowed the conservation organization to dramatically expand its programming and open a new nature preschool, which significantly increased regional awareness.

What Our Clients Say

“Our instructions to the architects were to create a simple design, easy to maintain, functional, and respectful of the park. What we have isn’t anything I could have envisioned, but it is everything we dreamed of.”

—Kim Murphy, President, Berks Nature

After experiencing an overwhelming demand for programming, a new addition constructed over and adjacent to the original preschool building doubled the size of the existing campus while limiting site disturbance and preserving the pristine natural setting. Clad in reclaimed wood from Pennsylvania mushroom farms and stone from New England, the addition blends in and appears as a natural extension of the existing facility. Named the Rookery—a term for a colony of birds—the addition provides uniquely stunning views over the 100-acre park and features new multipurpose classroom and community gathering spaces capable of welcoming every child interested in nature.

Interior and exterior spaces immerse visitors in nature through views of the outdoors from 99% of occupied areas, daylighting, natural ventilation, and direct outdoor access. Bird-friendly etched glazing, dark sky compliant lighting, native plantings, and a variety of onsite stormwater management strategies all help to support the local and regional ecosystem. The building also showcases sustainable principles that visitors can use in their own homes, including reclaimed and recycled materials, sun shades, rain garden, rain chains, rain barrels, sheep’s wool insulation, and daylight sensors. Interpretive signage and wall graphics located throughout help educate visitors on the site’s ecosystem and conservation principles.


AIA Maryland Excellence in Design Jury Citation
AIA Baltimore Excellence in Sustainability & Resilience Award
AIA Baltimore Good Design = Good Business
AIA Baltimore Excellence in Design Honorable Mention
Architizer A+ Awards, Cultural & Expo Center Special Mention
Greater Reading Chamber Alliance, Building Berks Award for Education
Smart Growth Alliance of Berks County, Smart Growth Award