Tree-house inspired visitor center opens in North Carolina
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the first and longest rural parkways in America, winding 496 miles through scenic mountain ranges and past seemingly endless vistas. So when the National Park Service decided the area needed a destination center to orient visitors to the treasures of the region, it hired area architect Lord Aeck and Sargent to design a facility that would tell the story of the Parkway while paying homage to the region’s natural and cultural diversity, economic traditions and recreational opportunities.
Taking their cue from the Appalachian region’s rural and natural character, the architects designed the center to evoke the feeling of “tree-house”. Built of wood and glass with expansive open interiors, the facility houses exhibit space dedicated to the history and development of the Parkway, space for regional exhibits and visitor information; a 70-seat theater, and a retail shop. One of the larger exhibits is a 22-foot interactive map of the entire Blue Ridge Parkway known as the “I-Wall” which provides multi-media information on places to visit on and around the Parkway.
Although rustic in feel, the Center incorporates the latest sustainable technologies including a green roof, active and passive solar heating and cooling and radiant floor heating. Completed in October 2007, the Center received a LEED Gold rating from the United States Green Building Council.