Facility Profile - April 2008
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A Vision in Full

Laurance S. Rockefeller Reserve Center in Moose, Wyo.

By Shay Bapple

Travelers may expect to become one with nature when lodging, camping or passing through the Teton mountain range in Northwest Wyoming. Visitors who pass through Grand Teton National Park will be quick to find out that its facilities have already started morphing into the lay of the land.

Located one mile above Jackson Hole Valley and just south of Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park is home to a trail network that spans many miles of marked, as well as unmarked back-country trails. The park also features four lodging sites, one of which is a year-round ski resort, in addition to horseback riding, motorized tours and river float trips. It wouldn't be uncommon for the average visitor to come across wildlife like osprey, moose, elk and bear while hiking, driving or boating in between Grand Teton Mountain and its 12 surrounding peaks. But what may be most impressive about the park is the 7,500-square-foot Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center, scheduled to open in mid-summer 2008.

The Center will feature a welcome area, exhibit galleries and a resource room. The exhibits inform visitors of the Preserve's natural qualities. Visitors will move through different sensory experiences linked with a poem by Terry Tempest Williams. Explorations will include videos featuring Laurance Rockefeller speaking about conservation, other nature-related videos, landscape and wildlife photography and a tactile rail that has embedded ground textures for hikers to help prepare them for their experience. At the south end of the L-shaped building, vertical wooden slats are erected forming a chapel-like apex with gaps in between the boards to allow in light. The atmosphere is complemented by an audio soundscape. Also, visitors can utilize the resource room to relax and learn about the preserve.

The design of the building was created by Carney Architects of Jackson, Wyo., with the goal to encourage a closer understanding of the ecology of place. The center was the first in the National Park Service to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum status, on Aug. 11, 2007. It is also the first building in Wyoming to achieve this highest LEED ranking. The ultimate purpose, according to Carney Architects, was to construct a building that increases profitability while reducing the negative environmental impacts of a building and improving occupant health.

Kevin Burke, principal at Carney Architects, said that when the firm became involved with the project in 2001, their goals did not include building a facility that would achieve LEED Platinum status. After a year of planning and developing, they realized that the structure's green benefits could make that status a reality and pushed toward potentially gaining the certification.