Big Sky Community Center and Biophilic Design

The Big Sky Community Center (now known as BASE) is a project which BRS partnered with A&E Design a Montana-based Architecture firm. BRS was responsible for the interior architecture and A&E Design the exterior. The BRS project team was Kevin Armstrong, Chris Cosenza, Mackenzie Manson, Ellie Lokken, and Marcia Hocevar!

Big Sky Community Organization (BSCO) was seeking a WELL Pilot credit for the project. “ The WELL Building Standard® is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind.” It is a third-party certified by the Green Business Certification Incorporation (GBCI), which administers the LEED certification program and the LEED professional credentialing program.

Our client, Big Sky Community Organization (BSCO), drafted the narrative for this LEED credit point based on our design solutions for the interior spaces in the building, and this narrative was edited to focus on the interior design biophilic concepts.


One of the overall goals for the BSCO has been to serve as a community gathering space connected to trail systems and outdoor activities, while promoting dynamic and healthy lifestyles. The name itself, BASE, is an acronym to that commitment: Big Adventure Safe Environments. As enjoying and being immersed in nature is a cornerstone of the Big Sky community’s culture, biophilic design strategies served as guiding principles and were incorporated starting in the conceptual design phase. From the building’s natural material palette to the lush on-site landscaping, a variety of strategies from 3 main criteria of 14 Patterns in Biophilic Design have been implemented and showcased in the design. A strong influence on the design of the project came from the popular Ousel Falls trail hike and Lone Mountain. Many of the forms and finishes were derived from these beloved local treasures, and integrated natural materials or biomorphic forms and patterns.

Nature in the Space

Many references to nature will be found inside throughout the center. For example, graphically and informationally rich displays in the lobby will provide an insight into the highly unique natural events and ecosystems that occur in the area due to the proximity to Yellowstone National Park. These displays will be able to be swapped out with new information. BSCO is working on partnerships with various local non-profits, like the Gallatin River task force to create content.

Natural Analogues

Biomorphic Forms & Patterns: Upon entering the center, visitors come across a prominent, graphic art installation that wraps around the corner walls behind the reception desk. This piece depicts the sweeping contours of the region through wood art by artist Heidi Erickson. The carpet in the main lobby and offices was selected because it looks like tree bark in natural colorways. The fireplace surround in the main lobby is a stack stone which mimics the stone formations at Ousel Falls nearby.

Material Connection with Nature

The material and color palette of the building has been designed specifically to balance harmoniously with Big Sky’s environment. The exterior board-formed concrete and cedar wood slat walls are reflective of the surrounding rocky landscape and conifer forests, both in application and form. The interior color scheme of blues, greens, greys and light brown replicate the feelings evoked by nature, such as calmness and relaxation. All colors in this project can be found locally in nature. A central fireplace in the lobby is constructed with 100SF of stack stone reminiscent of the rough stone found at Ousel Falls, a popular Big Sky destination that is directly connected via a walking/biking trail upgraded by BSCO. The 500 SF graphic art installation mentioned above is a wood panel with layers of stain applied to give it the various depth needed to portray the topography. The tree silhouettes in the children’s area are also wood and provide biomorphic pattering specifically sized for children.

Nature of the Space


This biophilic strategy encapsulates one of the main objectives of the BSCO: to provide a communal place to take refuge from the elements during Big Sky’s harsh winters while enhancing both physical and behavioral health. The goal behind the large floor to ceiling windows was to allow one to provide a feeling of being one with nature while still protected. The center is meant to be an outlet for activity when the outdoors is too harsh and a haven for those struggling mentally with the harsh environment a sometime isolated feeling a remote mountain town can have.

Throughout the building, there are multiple areas for one to pause and reflect away from the busier activity areas. As part of the greater lobby space, the rec room “living” area is an inviting space for anyone to relax. In the youth development space, there is a nook below the stair case specially designed for one to hide out and take a break from activities. Lastly, the wellness area on the second floor is always open to anyone seeking refuge and solace from their daily lives.

Prospect: The building design will provide occupants with significant views, or areas of prospect. 75.62% of all program spaces offer direct sightlines to movement, flora, and fauna, as well as long distance views towards the mountains, which are located more than 1,500 feet away. The upstairs fitness area will be open to the first level lobby and gym, providing a view of the other activities occurring below.

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