narrowsburg, new york

The proposition to construct a new Upper Delaware Scenic Byway Visitors Center adjacent to Fort Delaware (an authentic depiction of the life of the Delaware pioneers who settled in the Upper Delaware Valley in 1754) presented a number of site and regional specific design opportunities. A significant challenge was to create a building in relatively close proximity to the existing Fort Delaware that both established its own presence but did not overly crowd the site. The Visitors Center is built into the landscape - symbolically tying it to the Upper Delaware region and reducing its visual presence from the highway as a second structure in competition with the Fort Delaware buildings. The Visitors Center's primary visual connection to the highway will be its sign, playfully deployed just to the east of its gently rising green roof. The accessible roof of the Visitors Center will set up a vantage point looking towards the Delaware River and landscape.

The placement of the Visitors Center on the site will help to establish the parking lot as a public space shared with Fort Delaware. In effect, both buildings will address the parking lot supporting the idea of the parking lot becoming an event space when needed. The Visitors Center organizes the program to optimize flexibility of use while maintaining functionality and will be capable of operating over 24 hours. When the building is closed, a computerized information kiosk located next to the main entrance will be accessible by the public.

The Visitors Center is to be constructed from a palette of tough, low maintenance materials that are native or locally sourced in the region and built using local trades. A site cast concrete wall and polished concrete radiant slab recall the spirit of regionally developed Rosendale cement. Locally harvested Hemlock timbers are integrated on the building's exterior rain screen/ guard rail matching the wood species used on the Fort and existing gift shop. The interior finishes of plywood paneling and Tectum panels (cementitious wood fiber acoustical panels) are made from renewable woods from sustainably managed forests. Locally quarried bluestone is set within and atop steel gabions (wire frames) to create a seating /viewing area that functions as an outdoor learning environment looking toward the existing gift shop and Fort. The green roof is composed of sedum plantings and recycled rubber pavers allowing the public to access the roof as a viewing platform of the surrounding landscape and to understand some of the building's sustainable practices. The Visitors Center uses a number of passive features to reduce year round energy consumption. The structure uses its building mass to keep the building cool in the summer and to help store radiant heat in the winter. The building envelope is insulated with rigid insulation that exceeds the State's minimum standards. Fluorescent fixtures and LED lighting are used to reduce heat generation and energy consumption. Each room is daylit reducing the need for artificial lighting during normal operating times and each room has an operable window to allow for cross ventilation and passive cooling during the summer months.

Collaborative team: Atelier Big City, Domus Architecture and NIPPaysage.