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Re-visioning for National Parks

Faculty and students from the University of Washington’s College Of Built Environments spent Jan. 7-8 exploring San Juan Island National Historical Park as part of a process to design a permanent visitor center at American Camp.

They are participating in a competition, entitled “Parks for the People: A Studio Competition to Re-imagining America’s National Parks,” sponsored by the National Parks Service and Van Allen Institute, is an independent nonprofit architectural organization, founded in 1894, whose mission is to pro­mote innovative thinking about the role of architecture and design in civic life.

Interdisciplinary teams from 35 design schools, colleges and universities entered the fall semester competition.

Now that the teams have presented their vision to the judges, they must now collaborate with the parks to find ways to promote sustainability, inspire stewardship, empower youth, and foster dynamic connections among parks, communities and natural systems.

San Juan Island NHP was considered an ideal candidate — since 1977 it has been conducting primary visitor center operations from a double-wide trailer at American Camp. The students spent several hours touring the park and querying the staff, including Chief of Interpretation Mike Vouri and Chief of Integrated Resources Jerald Weaver.

The UW team, led by Professors Ken Yocom and Manish Chalana, is among nine colleges and universities that are working with seven national parks for site-specific visitor center designs. In the spring they will explore design solutions that address the challenges facing the national park system today.

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