The Virginia Living Museum, located in Newport News, is one of the most unique museums in the Mid-Atlantic. Among the various exhibits and outdoor educational programs which range from marine life to space exploration, it focuses on native plants and animals, and their Virginia habitats. The animals that live on the museum site were orphaned, injured, or bred in captivity. The museum educates the public on these animals and the geography they inhabit.
The Virginia Living Museum commissioned WPL to design a lakeside amphitheater to function as a multi-use outdoor classroom. The design allows for nature and animal shows for 100 spectators, room for storage, and stage preparation. It required extensive planning and construction detailing in order to ensure that a structure could not only be built, but that it could also integrate into the natural surroundings with minimal impact.
Minimizing impacts primarily meant preservation of the existing trees. However, preservation of existing trees not only meant protecting the tree trunks and branches, but also their root systems and the soil volumes supporting those roots. Compaction of soils on the site was prohibited, and all excavations required WPL approval. Other procedures were implemented to ensure soil stability and prevent soil compaction. For example, the contractor was not allowed to use excavators for digging post foundations, the design eliminated earthwork grading, and many posts were field located by WPL to avoid root conflicts.