The Gerald W. Marks Exploration Center & Rocky Mountain Gardens is a cooperative endeavor led by the Missoula County Weed District and Extension Service, collaborating with the Missoula Butterfly House and other community partners. The design process, spearheaded by A&E Design, prioritized community needs and aspirations at every stage.
This multifaceted facility offers diverse educational opportunities, featuring adaptable indoor and outdoor classrooms, a greenhouse, expansive educational gardens, a plant clinic, a cutting-edge demonstration kitchen, and a wet lab, alongside conference and administrative spaces. Thoughtful architectural design accounts for seasonal sun exposure and optimal site orientation to maximize natural light while balancing private and public with indoor and outdoor spaces to meet varied educational, experiential, and environmental needs. The Exploration Center features Montana’s first tropical butterfly house. Complemented by the extensive gardens and classrooms, it offers a holistic, hands-on learning experience accessible to people of all generations and backgrounds.
Pivotal in the ongoing revitalization of the Missoula County Fairgrounds, this project reflects the vision of groups dedicated to Western Montana’s landscape stewardship through environmental education.