Straughn Trout Architects is pleased to share that a team of its design professionals earned first place in the McFadden Nature Center Architectural Design Competition.

“This is a great way to kick off 2021,” said Jon Kirk, Principal at Straughn Trout Architects. “Our team members dedicated time atop their workloads to collaborate and contribute their design talents on how to compose the forthcoming Nature Center.”

McFadden Nature Center - Conceptual Rendering
Front entry to the McFadden Nature Center


The McFadden Nature Center is named in honor of the late Pat McFadden, an avid outdoorsman, stock market investor, pilot, and expert marksman, whose passion for protecting native plants and wildlife is emulated in the site.


The McFadden Foundation mission is to preserve and protect the land, indigenous plants and animals and all things related to it in as good of quality as reasonably possible.


The competition challenged participants to design a Nature Center in Donalsonville, Georgia on 1,260 acres of woods and wetlands and two miles of river frontage along the Chattahoochee River. The Nature Center program components include a 10,000 SF+ Education Center; a 10,000 SF lodging area for overnight visitors; an outdoor meeting area for up to 100 people; a Great Room with displays of American animals and Indian artifacts and educational kiosks; and an Africa Room to pay homage to McFadden’s love of Africa.

Conceptual sketch of the Education Center and Lodging Area


“The design developed spatially separating the public/private spaces and focusing on the intersections of those spatial volumes, unfolding a continual exploratory experience,” said Kirk. “This initiates visitor access which continues as they navigate the rolling hills and woodlands. The structure is merely a framework allowing the visitor to become immersed into the natural settling on the gentle hills, woodlands, and river setting.”

“We incorporated an abundance of local stone and pine elements into the design, acknowledging the local vernacular. The design also features a rainwater harvesting system and rainwater gardens to enhance sustainability.”

Rainwater harvesting garden along the front entryway.


Kirk, who was also the Project Architect for Lake Crago Outdoor Recreation Center in Lakeland, stated, “it is encouraging to see communities and organizations placing an emphasis on blurring the lines between recreation, education, and native preservation. Blending facilities in such a manner enables the public to directly interact with and learn about the environment through leisurely immersion.”

Regular focused design charrette exercises such as this benefit teams in strengthening internal collaboration, communication, and design vision. Veronica Scharf at 484 Studio earned second place in the design competition. The architectural program at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University in Tallahassee was awarded top collegiate honors, followed by Kano University in Nigeria and University at Buffalo, New York.


Regular focused design charrette exercises such as this benefit teams in strengthening internal collaboration, communication, and design vision.


Kirk shared some of STA’s local projects beginning construction this year including the History and Culture Center + associated renovations at Lakeland Public Library, the new Northeast Polk County Government Center in Lake Alfred, and the Apopka Service Center for the St. John’s River Water Management District.

To learn more about this project, visit:

To learn more about the McFadden Nature Center, visit: