The Mountain Institute's Spruce Knob Mountain Center (SKMC) is a 400 acre high-elevation nature preserve located in the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia. The Potomac Highlands feature some of the darkest night skies in the Eastern U.S., the highest peak in the state (Spruce Knob), the healthiest streams in the state, extensive Red Spruce and northern hardwood forests, natural springs, and numerous caves.
The Spruce Knob Mountain Center also showcases innovative, sustainable architecture. Our buildings were designed to complement the beauty of the natural landscape, while limiting the use of non-renewable resources in construction and maintenance. The two largest buildings of the center are yurts. They contain a kitchen, dining area, office space, a library, a classroom, and everyone's favorite room, the aerie ("bubble").
The yurts at Spruce Knob are patterend after a Mongolian yurts. Yurts are self-supporting structures which began as movable tents with wooden frames, covered by felted wool and canvas. The American-style yurts at SKMC , however, are meant to stay in one place, and are therefore constructed from wood and stone. Ulan Bator, our larger yurt, was built in the 1970s. The yurt in the rear of the photo, Almati, was constructed in the 1990s. These buildings are named after the capital of Mongolia and the major city in Kazakhstan, respectively. Both yurts were designed by the late Bill Coperthwaite.
The aerie, or "bubble" is a small room on the top floor of Ulan Bator, covered with a rounded sky light. It serves as a small group meeting space, meditation area, and reading room.