Grand Teton Visitor Center
by Edward Riddell, with Tom Kundig
Early in the design process of the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Grand Teton National Park, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson made several key design decisions that were critical to the success of the project.
First, they successfully lobbied to separate the building from the parking lot. Our culture's obsession with big box stores fronted by parking lots made this a tough sell. The design team argued that people should separate themselves from their cars and decompress from the worries of the road during the short walk from their car to the building. The board of trustees of the Grand Teton National Park Foundation agreed.
The site enjoys a spectacular view of the Teton Range. The architects felt the building should not try to compete with that view, but enhance it. As visitors approach the building, the view of the mountain range is temporarily blocked as the mountains recede behind the undulating roof line that echoes the jagged skyline. They proceed through a calm and ordered courtyard which, with its two boulders, reminds us of the glacial history of the valley.
Finally, passage through a low entry reveals a roof that soars up to the west, culminating in a nearly 30-foot- (nine-meter-) high glass curtain wall that looks directly to the Teton Range. Visitors stop right there to catch their breath. At that moment, they are hooked.
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This article is excerpted from Grand Teton: A National Park Building by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, copyright © 2009, with permission of the publisher, ORO Editions.