Located in the San Bernardino Mountains near a reservoir, the new Visitors’ Center complements other California State Park improvements. This 3,000 sf building is surrounded by native forest, mostly Sycamore trees. In this context, our challenge was to create a facility with minimal physical impact to the surrounding landscape. The architectural concept for the Visitors’ Center is a pavilion in the trees, whereby two parallel slabs are raised above the ground to form floor and roof, allowing existing trees to pass through uninterrupted and to minimize the building’s footprint to encourage ecological continuity.
Staggered concrete slabs are oriented to create a south-facing overhang to reduce heat gain. Solar roof panels heat water that is circulated through a radiant floor slab in winter, when temperatures drop below freezing, and is reversible in summer, when temperatures top 100°F. The goal of the environmental strategy is to create a self-sustaining building that operates independently of the power grid. These sustainability features prompted DPR to adopt a new approach to interpretive content, including a demonstration of the building’s energy-saving principles.
Concrete slabs provide a thermal lag whereby the building is ventilated at night and closed during the day. Thirty percent of the façade needs to be opaque to effectively control heat gain. Additional coverage would not significantly reduce these values. The environmental strategy is simple, primarily passive and utilizes natural ventilation, shading and solar orien- tation.