Badlands Centennial Studio

Cultural Landscape Rehabilitation.

Advanced Design Studio | Fall 2015 | Professors Michael Holleran & Benjamin Ibarra Sevilla

 

Awarded Design Excellence | UT Austin School of Architecture

Published in Issue: 012

Presented at NCPTT/NPS: A Century of Design in the Parks Symposium (2016)

HWY 240 Loop Road weaves through the striated features of the Badlands formations and the mixed grass prairie. 

Cedar Pass, Badlands National Park, SD

Cedar Pass in Badlands National Park, South Dakota is eligible for inclusion in the National Register under criterion A and C for early tourism, CCC development, and Mission 66 architecture and planning. Designed by Cecil Doty, the Visitor Center was completed in 1959 and featured quintessential elements of Doty’s “Park Service Modern” design vocabulary, including low, horizontal massing, large picture windows, a porch viewing area facing the dramatic landscape, and exterior materials chosen to complement the color and texture of the surrounding environment. 

Our University of Texas at Austin advanced design studio was hired to work with the National Park Service to propose design solutions that take a systematic approach to addressing challenges of sustainability, historic preservation, accessibility and visitor experience. Our studio divided into four groups to address four sectors of the Cedar Pass cultural landscape - the Visitor Center, the Lodge and Cabin Court area, employee housing, and the landscape. I was part of a group of three students - Kelsey Riddle, Kathleen Conti and myself - that addressed the Ben Reifel Visitor Center area. This was a collaborative and interdisciplinary project, but all of the work presented here are deliverables that I created.

As Graduate Research Assistants hired by UT Austin's Center for Sustainable Development to continue working on the Badlands project, Kelsey Riddle and I designed a publication to present and archive the work created by the studio as a group. To view that publication, click here.

 

Aerial view of Cedar Pass, Badlands National Park, SD.

Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Designed by Cecil Doty and completed in 1959.

Ben Reifel Visitor Center

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. Doty’s design—from the roads and parking lots to the Visitor Center itself—fulfilled the NPS’s dual mandate of preserving nature while enhancing visitor experience. Our design emphasizes the Mission 66 mandate of conservation and preservation through education while planning for the future.

Analysis of the historic resources as they relate to circulation systems, views, clustering, and natural topography as part of the cultural landscape. 

 
 Current condition, 2015. Porch has been enclosed and varied massing has been lost.

Current condition, 2015. Porch has been enclosed and varied massing has been lost.

 Rear windows have been blocked off and an additional wing (left) has been added.

Rear windows have been blocked off and an additional wing (left) has been added.

 Visitor center c. 1960 illustrating porch which looks out to Badlands Wall to the north.

Visitor center c. 1960 illustrating porch which looks out to Badlands Wall to the north.

 Information desk inside the visitor center, c. 1960.

Information desk inside the visitor center, c. 1960.

Reinvigorating the visitor experience.

In addition to rehabilitating the historic core of the Ben Reifel Visitor Center for the purpose of interpreting the Mission 66 history at Badlands National Park, we have proposed a proposed rammed earth addition that includes state-of-the-art interpretive spaces and a fully accessible and interactive paleontology lab. This addition reinvigorates the visitor experience by drawing people in for learning experiences that will lead them on further adventures throughout the park. The two new wings are oriented to take advantages of the views of the Badlands formations to the east and the restored mixed grass prairie to the south.

Paleontology Lab | An interactive paleontology lab prioritizes education and discovery, allowing both children and adults to learn about one of the park’s most precious resources.

Views | By restoring the porch and reorienting the space towards new views of the Badlands, our design pays homage to the original intention of the Mission 66 design.

Interpretation | The integration of interpretive space and the outdoors gives visitors of any age or ability level an opportunity to learn about Badlands National Park.

Indoor/Outdoor | Thoughtfully designed outdoor spaces provide areas for interpretation, recreation, and relaxation. The restored Mission 66 porch acts as a transition space between the indoors and outdoors. 

 Model of proposed contemporary addition to rehabilitated Visitor Center.

Model of proposed contemporary addition to rehabilitated Visitor Center.

 

Elevations of proposed restoration of the main porch, and new addition in striated rammed earth. Pen and marker on vellum.

Scheme of proposed rehabilitation and addition to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Plan emphasis the retention of original material features, reconnecting to the landscape, and a new Paleontology Lab for visitors.

 

Historic photos of Badlands National Park show the development of the park from the era of Early Tourism (19091938) through the New Deal and Civilian Conservation Corps Era (19381942) and into the Mission 66 Era (19561966). Although some features have been lost or altered, Cedar Pass retains integrity as a cultural landscape and is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Historic images courtesy of Badlands National Park.

 
 
 

To see a report, created by myself and Kelsey Riddle, on all of the Badlands Centennial Studio projects, enter fullscreen mode below or download a PDF here.