The Interpretive Center and its related trails represents a gift of an 1,100-acre inholding of land on the shores of Phelps Lake from Laurance S. Rockefeller to the U.S. National Park Service to benefit and educate the public. Because this project tells the story of environmental stewardship and conservation, the client wanted a “quiet” building designed to fit gently into the landscape and encourage a closer understanding of the ecology of place.
The 7,000-square-foot building is self-guiding, with the goal of awakening the senses so that visitors may gain a heightened appreciation of the surrounding landscape. More like a chapel than a visitor center, the L-shaped, rectilinear order of the building curves to an apse-like form at its south end. Here, vertical wood slats reminiscent of old barns with gaps between boards, bring narrow slits of light into a contemplative space, suggesting the spiritual power of nature.
In both medium and message the building advances environmental responsibility, with sustainable materials and methods of paramount importance in design from the building itself to every piece of furniture, also designed by Carney Logan Burke Architects. This building is the first to achieve LEED-Platinum status in the U.S. National Park Service and in the state.