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A Natural Balance

The K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre and Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens at Acadia University

Landscape architect Alex Novell and architectural historian John Leroux tell the story of the design, construction, and features of the Centre and Gardens at Acadia. Lavishly illustrated with full-colour images, A Natural Balance is both an indispensable book for anyone interested in the plants and trees of the Acadian forest and a visual record of a spectacular instance of North American collegiate architecture.

Here’s what the contributors — and important players in the life of the Botanical Gardens — have to say about the book:

A book sits open on a dark surface. There is a full-page photo of a white bench at the end of a garden path, surrounded by rich green and red foliage. On the other page, there is some text and a smaller photo of a bench along a path, surrounded by young trees.

“It is difficult to explain how deeply certain places become intertwined with our lives. The K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre, Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens, and the Woodland Trails are more than research and community resources. These places are integral to the fabric that makes up Acadia University, the town of Wolfville, and the generations of students, staff, community members, and visitors that frequent them. I hope readers feel the energy, the sense of wonder, and appreciation for the natural world that the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre inspires in all those who enter. I hope this deeply held love of place can be felt through the pages of this book, beckoning readers to visit and marvel at this special place in the Acadian Forest Region.”
— Sarah Lavallée, fourth-year Acadia student and Irving scholar

“From its genesis, the purpose of the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre and the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens, has been to enhance the student experience at Acadia University. In that same spirit, this book captures the essence of this world class facility that has shaped Acadia's landscape, ignited our passion for research and learning, and served our community as a place to connect and engage. As much as it is a testament to an architectural and infrastructure achievement like no other, this book is also a fitting tribute to the Irving family's service to our community, which is an integral part of Acadia's story.”
— Dr. Peter Ricketts, Acadia University President and Vice-Chancellor

A book sits open on a dark surface. It shows a photo of a lush landscape, overgrown with tall, green brush. There is a trail marker in the forefront and a square gazebo in the distance.

“Creating the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre and the Harriet Irving Gardens is our gift to Acadia University which we proudly share with you in photos, history, stories and memories on these pages. My wish is that it holds Acadia in good stead for a very long time in the opportunities the gardens and the Centre provide students in their academic pursuits during their happy student years at Acadia.”
— Arthur Irving, Chancellor Emeritus

“Arthur Irving’s original idea to bring together environmental study of the region with a central meeting place on campus and gardens of wild flora was unique and brilliant. After centuries of garden design, where the emphasis has been on the plant collector, the breeder, and the designer, we are now looking for gardens which celebrate the natural world and contribute to our understanding of ecology and biodiversity. In this, it was ahead of its time. After twenty years of nurture and maturity, it is a privilege to be able to tell the story of how it all came about.”
— Alex Novell, project master planner and landscape architect

A Natural Balance shares the story of the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre and Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens — the coming together of the beauty of nature, the importance of scientific research and connection in space for friends to meet. It is a testimonial to those who built this beautiful place and importantly the vision and heart in each of its spaces.”
— Sarah Irving

A book lies open on a dark surface. On one page, there is a photo of a path winding through a lush, green forest. On the other page, which is a stark white in contrast, there is some text and two smaller photos.

“From the first time I walked through the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre doors, I realized that I was experiencing one of the finest feats of architecture the region had seen in several generations. It was a unique privilege to be asked to contribute to this book celebrating the 20th anniversary of the project, and to be able to work alongside one of its principal designers, Alex Novell.”
— John Leroux, architectural historian

“Herein A Natural Balance lives our vision for the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre and Harriet Irving Gardens. Outside, it is captured in the older, taller trees, in the more mature plants and flowers and in the medicinal plants and other plant species, used for research and teaching. Inside, it exists in the academic pursuits of accomplished students for whom the Centre was created and in the many friendships founded in the Garden Room. We proudly share these very special places with you.”
— Sandra Irving

Copies of A Natural Balance are available at finer bookstores or online at

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