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A Million Pounds of Mud

Museum baked into Canada’s only desert.

Osoyoos, British Columbia

Traditional meets modern

Completed in 2007, this 1,600 acre desert conservation area - the largest remnant of the Great American Desert - is one of Canada’s most endangered places. The Osoyoos Indian Band wanted to create a place that would protect and respect the land, celebrate the legacy of their people and function in harmony with the site.

Largest Rammed Earth in North America

DIALOG, inspired by the Band’s harmonious interactions with the desert and their conservation efforts for its animals, used design and materials that speak to these relationships. The team wanted to design a building that would one day make a beautiful ruin. As part of that, we built the most sophisticated sustainable technologies right into the building. The desert flows over the building, which results in a habitable green roof and a structure that integrates seamlessly into the landscape. Further, the thick rammed earth (a type of low slump concrete) walls and green roof regulate the building’s temperature, and mitigate the effects of the extreme climate.

Local help

Used blue-stain pine (pine beetle wood) donated by the forest industry.

Construction, design and materials that protect the sensitive site

Local experts informed us about materials and building methods that would protect the sensitive desert ecosystem, and create facilities for the Band’s award-winning rattlesnake research project.

Project facts

Size: 39,000 sq. m./ 500,000 sq. ft.
Cost : $6.6 Million
Completed : 2006
Collaborators: Philips Farevaag Smallenberg
Builder: Greyback Construction
Client: Osoyoos Indian Band

Achievements & Awards

Category Winner, World Architecture Festival, Barcelona, Spain

SAB Award, Sustainable Architecture & Building Magazine

Governor General's Medal in Architecture, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada

Award of Excellence, Innovation in Architecture, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada,

Inspirational Leadership Award, Aboriginal Tourism Association of British Columbia

Lieutenant–Governor of British Columbia Medal of Excellence in Architecture, Architectural Institute of British Columbia

Wood Design Green Award, Canadian Wood Council

Awards for Excellence in Concrete Construction, Decorative Concrete Award, BC Ready–Mix Concrete Association