Architect of Grand Teton National Park's Visitor Center Receives Highest Honor

The Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. Grand Teton National Park Foundation photo.

Imagine being named in the same breath with Thomas Jefferson, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Frank Gehry? That's the honor bestowed on Peter Bohlin, an architect who envisioned the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center that opened in Grand Teton National Park in 2007.

Mr. Bohlin, the founder of the architectural firm of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, recently received the 2010 American Institute of Architects' Gold Medal. The annual distinction represents the profession’s highest honor and is bestowed upon an individual whose significant body of work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture. Mr. Bohlin is the 66th AIA Gold Medalist and joins the ranks of such visionaries as Thomas Jefferson, Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn, I.M. Pei, Frank Gehry, and Renzo Piano.

During his career Mr. Bohlin has designed rural homes, nature centers, and urban buildings and is best known for his contextual use of materials. Grand Teton National Park Foundation, the park’s primary fund-raising partner, selected the architect to design a contemporary educational building to replace the park’s outdated visitor center built in the 1960s.

“We envisioned a facility that would be forward-thinking and sustainable, yet echo the landscape and history around it. Our goal was to entice people to come inside, stay for a while, and learn something about Grand Teton,” said foundation President Leslie Mattson. “Peter has helped us significantly raise the national profile of the park.”

The initial phase of the 24,000-square-foot Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center was completed in 2007 and serves many of the nearly 4 million annual park visitors. Mr. Bohlin is collaborating again with his original team for the project’s 3,600-square-foot final phase, a privately funded 150-seat auditorium that will feature a high-definition theater and the center’s second signature wall of windows. The auditorium breaks ground in April 2010 and opens to the public by spring 2011. The foundation’s fund-raising efforts are currently under way for the $4.1 million project.

“We couldn’t be happier for Peter and for Grand Teton,” said Ms. Mattson said. “His interpretation of the modern visitor center has given the park one more reason to be explored and remembered.”

Mr. Bohlin’s projects have earned 14 national AIA awards, including nine Institute Honor Awards, COTE Top Ten Green Project Awards, AIA Committee on Education Awards, and AIA Housing Awards. Bohlin Cywinski Jackson is a 200-person practice with offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Seattle, and San Francisco.

Established in 1997, Grand Teton National Park Foundation provides private financial support for programs and projects that enhance, preserve, and protect Grand Teton National Park’s treasured cultural, historic, and natural resources. In addition to the visitor center and its upcoming auditorium, the organization funds wildlife research, bear-resistant food storage boxes, and the summer Youth Conservation Program, a teen work crew that restores popular trails and historic sites, with generous gifts from its donors.

Comments

The new visitor center is a ridiculus ediface of self glorification that misses the whole point of a place like Grand Teton. It seems to call up reflections of Jackson, Wy. not Grand Teton National Park. There is a difference. As man continues to build monuments to man in our national parks its no wonder that we continue to produce a society increasingly dissacoiated and unsure how to interact with wilderness and the idea of it. This especialy includes the park foundations and managing bodies that seem to prefer to engage in continuing rounds of one-up-manship with other national parks and the scenery itself. I'm dissapointed, let down, not hopeful.

Not sure about the above comment. Mostly I found the "entry way" a little off-putting, but the hall and displays were outstanding. The window views are expansive and give you a great starting point to the experience to the Tetons. I just wish they had followed the French meaning of the word through to a logical conclusion! ;)