Tashjian Bee and Pollinator Discovery Center

Architect: MSR Design

Owner: University of Minnesota | Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Location: Chaska, Minnesota

Project site: Previously developed land

Building program type(s): Education – General


The Tashjian Bee and Pollinator Discovery Center is a multi-functional public education facility in Chaska, Minnesota. It provides learning opportunities for children and adults about the lives of bees and other pollinators, their agricultural and ecological importance, and the essential, fascinating, and delicious ways our human lives intersect with theirs.

Along with their importance to flowering plants, honey bees and other pollinators play a crucial role in the production of the food we eat. However, the health of pollinators is endangered by pesticide use, lack of forage, destruction of nest habitats, and colony collapse disorder. Serving as the outreach arm of the University of Minnesota’s Bee and Pollinator Research Lab, this new 7,530 square-foot center contains exhibit space, a multi-purpose learning lab, a demonstration apiary, and a honey extraction room. Located on a previously abandoned historic farm site at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, the Bee Center is the first building of a new campus focusing on sustainable farm-to-table education.

The architect developed a master plan for this new campus with the 120-year-old Red Barn as its heart and future event center. The practical beauty of traditional farm buildings inspired the Bee Center’s simple forms, its siting, material selections, and its passive design strategies. The Bee Center’s exposed glulam truss framing is a contemporary response to the wood framing of the Red Barn’s hay loft. The design connects each interior program space to demonstration pollinator gardens, beehives, and future food production plots. The Bee Center strives to serve as an exemplar of its program’s urgent call for human conversation and best practices in our natural environment. Located in an arboretum that is visited by hundreds of thousands of people in all seasons, the Bee Center invites visitors to deepen their understanding of, and connection to, the natural world around them.

"This project shows what you can accomplish, not with fancy tools, but by using intuitive design practices." -Jury statement

Additional information

Project attributes

Year of design completion: 2016

Year of substantial project completion: 2016

Gross conditioned floor area: 7,530 sq ft

Gross unconditioned floor area: 0 sq ft

Number of stories: 1

Project Climate Zone: ASHRAE 6A

Annual hours of operation: 2,236

Site area: 121,210 sq ft

Project site context/setting: rural

Cost of construction, excluding furnishing: $3,250,000

Number of residents, occupants, visitors: 30,000

Project Team

Architect: MSR Design

Architect - Landscape: Damon Farber

Audio-Visual: Tierney Brothers

Engineer - Civil: Pierce Pini & Associates, Inc.

Engineer - MEP: MEP Associates, LLC

Engineer - Structural: Meyer, Borgman, and Johnson, Inc.

Exhibit Design: Kidzibits LLC

General Contractor: Loeffler Construction & Consulting

Landscape Architect: Damon Farber Associates


Nancy Clanton, Clanton & Associates

Paul Mankins, FAIA, Substance Architecture

Christiana Moss, AIA, Studio Ma

Christoph Reinhart, MIT

Allison Williams, FAIA, AGWms_studio

Image credits

COTE Tashjian 1

Richard Brine