The task of the studio was to examine the historic, current, and future needs of the Cedar Pass Headquarters within Badlands National Park in South Dakota. As a planner and a landscape architect, we identified the lack of vitality within the developed area as it focused solely on the static geologic features for which the park became famous. However, over half of the park is mixed-grass prairie supporting a diverse abundance of life, such as the bison and blue gramma grass. Many see the Badlands as an inhospitable moonscape, but the surrounding prairie has supported Indigenous populations for thousands of years and provides a balance to what is currently missing in Cedar Pass.
Incorporating the energy of this ecosystem into our proposal for the developed area, we suggest restoring the mowed turf lawns and eroded waterway with native prairie communities that are ecologically, emotionally, and educationally functional. Starting at the iconic welcome sign at The Visitor Center Lawn, we used Sustainable SITES along with Cultural Landscape Characteristics to identify areas of importance. These strategies guided our design through the creation of three typologies that combine plants, materials, and activities for optimal interpretive, recreational, and ecological purposes. Through Level 1 typology, The Visitor Center Lawn provides a space for visitors to capture memories while preserving ecosystem functions.
These principles were then applied at a larger scale to a flooding waterway that had no identity and created a barrier between the main nodes of the site. Through a combination of Levels 1, 2, and 3 Typologies, our design, The Draw, transforms an ignored and eroded ditch into an opportunity to engage with a celebration of the dynamic prairie.
These two sites exemplify our approach for rehabilitation of natural and cultural resources, balancing historic preservation with sustainable design. Working in the midst of the National Park Service’s Centennial Celebration, our framework and design proposals set the stage of not only the Badlands, but of National Parks across the country.