The new Visitor Center at the OP Arboretum and Botanical Gardens takes its cues from nature.

Inspired by nature, the new structure at the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanic Gardens is strong and substantial yet light and airy, just as it should be.

The new Welcome Center is named the LongHouse to honor the project’s main donor Janet Long and to honor the Native American and Scandinavian community structures of the same name.

“The maple foliage inspired the curve of the roof and pulls off the tree’s canopy vibes,” says Meg Ralph, Overland Park’s director of communications and media relations.

The idea of ​​combining heavy steel and wood for the center frame is inspired by structures found in nature, and is modeled after structures found in nature, “specifically the midrib structure in foliage,” according to Momenta, the architecture firm behind the design. “The central structural element supports secondary structures and free-form junctions,” just as the veins in a leaf support its structure. This also allows for window walls, letting in huge amounts of natural light and creating a space that feels as if you are outside.

The modern stone building with wood and metal accents features a zinc-coloured metal roof supported by warm-coloured wood beams. When you walk into the building, the architects want you to feel as if you are on a winding road shaded by tall trees. Momenta’s project plan states that “high ceilings and stretch ceilings filter light as it enters the building.” Visitors are guided along a gentle curve as they move through the building, not unlike the winding veins in a leaf.

The interior is finished with polished concrete floors, and combinations of limestone, plaster, glass, and wood have been used for the walls and ceiling. The 21,000-square-foot visitor center is scheduled to open in September and will also feature exhibition and event spaces, a café and gift shop, along with staff offices. The architects worked in collaboration with landscape design firm Confluence.

Including the acquisition of twenty acres of land for construction, the project cost about $22 million, of which $11 million was coming from the Overland Park Arts and Entertainment Corporation. The foundation began fundraising for the project in 2016, with Long, a board member, personally donating nearly $4 million. The remaining funds came from Overland Park city coffers. The new center is the first part of the gardens master plan and aims to welcome visitors. Eventually, city planners hope to add a large park, a chapel and a small outdoor theatre.

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