The Discovery Center

The Discovery Center


Size: 14,000 s.f. center on a 55-acre site

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Architect: DIGSAU

Builder: Intech

The National Audubon Society and Outward Bound Philadelphia collaborated to preserve a virtually unknown and inaccessible lake in Philadelphia by creating an educational center for conservation and leadership development that will benefit thousands of Philadelphians every year. This project provides the public with opportunities to interact with nature in the City and offers a wealth of resources to the greater Philadelphia region for generations to come. The location for the East Park Leadership and Conservation Center—the west basin of the East Park Reservoir and surrounding grounds next to the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood—encompasses a 37-acre man-made lake that was formerly part of the City’s water supply system.

The site was not open to the public and was concealed from view by fencing, dense vegetation, and a significant grade change from street level. This hidden gem offers an unusual opportunity for young people and adults to experience nature in a highly urbanized environment. Located near the heart of the Fairmount Park Important Bird Area (over 200 species of birds occur in the park), the lake has become a prime stopover site for migratory birds, including several spectacular waterfowl species. The Discovery Center is now the portal to the lake and offers exploration experiences for visitors of all ages. The center is a window to the natural world of Fairmount Park that is available to every member of the greater Philadelphia community. It allows managed public access to 50 acres of open space that has been fenced off from the surrounding park and neighborhoods for decades.