Reinvigorating the Visitor Experience | Rehabilitation of Mission 66 Architecture in Badlands National Park
Kathleen Conti + Kelsey Riddle + Hannah Simonson
MS Historic Preservation, expected 2017
Despite being one of the US’s premier national parks, Badlands National Park (BADL) struggles to attract and satisfy visitors due to its outdated infrastructure and lackluster presentation of natural and cultural resources. Through a partnership with the UTSOA and the NPS, we embarked on a yearlong project to preserve and reinvigorate the cultural landscape of Cedar Pass, BADL’s main developed area that remains eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places for its Mission 66 architecture. Over the past decades, the Visitor Center has seen a number of renovations and additions that damaged the integrity of the cultural landscape while also failing to fully address visitor needs. While many changes have occurred since the Visitor Center’s original construction, some important elements have survived and should be preserved.
We argue that a successful plan forward must thoroughly take into account the park’s rich history, the importance of preserving the cultural landscape of Cedar Pass, and the need to improve the visitor experience. Our design emphasizes the Mission 66 mandate of conservation and preservation through education while planning for the future. Our interventions include a permanent paleontology lab, museum displays that reflect its rich history, and interactive and accessible learning exhibits for visitors of all ages and backgrounds. We have reestablished many of the connections between the built and the natural environment, such as exposing the porch and reopening the original windows improves visitor experience by linking educational displays with the outdoors. This rehabilitation will also serve as an interpretive opportunity to show guests the importance of preservation and sustainability. Using rammed earth for new construction is low-impact and sustainable, as it will be made out of the soil excavated for the foundation. Its visually appealing striation and color provides a modern interpretation of Mission 66 ideals and sets apart new construction as distinctly modern while working in harmony with the Mission 66 porch restoration.
Throughout this project, reinvigoration became our guiding design principle, delicately balancing preserving the existing structures while simultaneously giving them new life by adapting them to current needs.