Overland Partners Architects Prioritize Conservation in Designs for New Zion National Park Discovery Center at the East Gateway Firm Unveils New Renderings During Zion National Park Forever Project’s Celebration for Construction Kick-off
SAN ANTONIO (AUG. 31, 2023) —Design architects from Overland Partners, with architect of record, Place Collaborative, showcased renderings of the Zion National Park Discovery Center during a ceremony held in East Zion, Utah, on August 22, 2023. Led by Zion National Park Forever Project members, attendees included Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox, officials from the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Utah Office of Tourism, and special guests from the local community. The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, and Shivwits Band of Paiutes were valued collaborators and present at the celebration, with Shivwits Elder, Karma Grayman, providing a land blessing preceding the event.
Following more than ten years of collaborative planning, the ceremony officially marks the start of construction for the Zion National Park Discovery Center project. Positioned on 19 privately-owned, donated acres just outside the east entrance to the park, the location protects the area from potential commercial development. With a dedication to preserving the remarkable beauty of the landscape, the Zion National Park Discovery Center will serve as a model for cultivating a connection between people and the land while instilling a profound respect for the environment among future generations through immersive learning opportunities.
The 22,000 square foot Discovery Center will offer free, hands-on educational experiences for visitors of all ages, encouraging them to explore the area’s diverse history, native ecology, stunning geology, and agricultural heritage while cultivating a deep sense of connection to the place.
“Our shared commitment to create an authentic entry experience leading to Zion National Park is evident in the meticulous attention to preserving, conserving, and seamlessly integrating structures into the landscape,” stated James Lancaster, principal architect at Overland Partners leading the Discovery Center project. “We aimed to design a place that sits lightly on the land, celebrating the iconic natural beauty of Zion,” he said.
ZION NATIONAL PARK DISCOVERY CENTER
Informed by the remarkable geologic formations of the region, views from the Discovery Center site are framed by sandstone cliffs, intricate canyons, and expansive desert plateaus. Designed to be a model for conservation-focused development, regenerative design, and ecosystem-based living, the building will be constructed using cross-laminated and heavy timber, aiming for all wood to be Forest Steward Council (FSC) certified. Finishes will reflect the natural colors and textures found throughout Zion’s semi-arid climate, including locally quarried sandstone, reclaimed wood finishes, and weathered steel that compose the building envelopes.
By incorporating passive design strategies, the Discovery Center’s integration of indoor and outdoor spaces will provide guests with comfortable spaces to gather throughout the year, supported by efficient mechanical systems when needed. Outdoor amenities encompass versatile spaces tailored to offer thermal comfort choices suitable for every season. The architecture and positioning of the structures on the site prioritizes panoramic view corridors, the utilization of natural daylight, and prevailing breezes. During summer months, exterior walls retract, and downdraft towers facilitate natural evaporative cooling. In contrast, porch overhangs are designed to welcome the gentle warmth of the low winter sun into the space during colder months, and a communal outdoor fire pit can be enjoyed during cold nights. Through a series of operable clerestory windows, daylight is channeled into the interior year-round. Green roofs on connecting corridors bring natural insulation, while a rainwater capture system will be used for landscape irrigation.
The Discovery Center establishes a gateway experience to Zion National Park, Utah’s first national park established in 1919, and the nation’s third most popular national park, as it hosted nearly five million visitors in 2022 (nps.gov). The park encompasses nearly 150,000 acres of diverse terrain—red rock desert, towering forests, and spectacular vistas with hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails. Focused on conservation and broadening recreational access, the Discovery Center will also function as a transit hub, linking visitors to over 70 miles of new trails. Presently, almost 80 percent of the park’s annual visitors enter through Zion’s south entrance in Springdale. The east gateway aims to ease congestion during peak seasons.
Funding for the Discovery Center was provided in large part by a $15 million bond to the local service district by the Permanent Community Impact Fund Board of the Department of Workforce Service with a $10 million investment by the Utah Department of Transport to construct the needed road system.
The site will be enhanced with an eco-sensitive landscape plan by Island Planning Corporation, inviting visitors of all ages to learn about agroforestry, interact with nature, and participate in harvesting of edible plants. Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds will design engaging play settings that promote children’s development through immersive experiences with nature. These spaces will be thoughtfully crafted to reflect the distinctive local characteristics of the area.
Overland Partners delivers dynamic, comprehensive design services in architecture, master planning, and urban design throughout the world. With offices in Dallas, Denver, San Antonio, and New York, Overland’s notable spirit of collaboration brings their clients’ wisdom to center stage, integrating technology, art, and craft to create world-class, innovative, and sustainable solutions for complex projects that care for the Earth and promote human flourishing. For more information, visit www.overlandpartners.com
The Zion Forever Project is the official non-profit partner of Zion National Park, Cedar Breaks, and Pipe Spring National Monuments. The momentum behind the Forever Project has generated funding, partnerships, and community support from organizations and park enthusiasts throughout the state and beyond, reflecting the project’s goals to unite park, community, and state resources to address visitation and park protection issues. Visit zionpark.org to join in the mission of stewardship for Zion National Park.
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