Case Study

Project: Mesa Verde National Park Visitor and Research Center

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Client: Mesa Verde National Park

Location: Montezuma County, Colorado

Year: 2014

The site sensitive landscape design for the Visitor and Research Center reflects this National Park's mission to educate the public about the archeological, biological, natural and cultural resources of the park and their inter‐connectivity. The new building, located at the park entrance off of Highway 160, replaces the aging Far View Visitor Center as the park's primary facility for orienting visitors and providing information about the opportunities within the park and the surrounding area. It also includes a state‐of‐the‐art research and storage facility for the park's archives and museum collection of over three million objects. The new facility achieved both LEED® Platinum and Sustainable Sites Initiative™ Two‐Star ratings, reinforcing the focus on creating a project that is sustainable and which is a good fit for the natural site.

Landmark Design worked with a team of architects, engineers, biologists and other technical experts to develop a design that respects the setting, the history, and the future of the site. The primary goal for the landscape was to revegetate the site with water‐wise plants that are native to Mesa Verde National Park. These plants are adapted to the harsh natural climate, which was deemed critical for meeting a secondary goal of utilizing no supplemental irrigation after the landscape was established. The intent of the planting design was for the plant community to evolve naturally over time, eventually fitting seamlessly with the surrounding environment and appearing as if it were not designed at all. This required careful research and input by plant biologists to determine which plants to use, which would establish easily, which of the existing plants would disperse and spread, which were likely to decline naturally.

It was essential that the landscape be low‐maintenance in order to minimize operational and maintenance requirements, and fire‐wise, since the area is prone to frequent and often uncontrollable wildfires. It was also important to utilize as many local, recycled, and sustainable materials as possible, in deference to the‐remote location and established sustainability goals. This project is proof that if sustainability goals are set early in the design process and the decision-making process is required to validate all steps toward this goal, success is possible.

Landmark Design was part of a decision-making team that selected the site, developed and analyzed site layout, site design and site drainage concepts. We were specifically responsible for landscape and irrigation design, site furnishings selection and interpretive pathway layout, and we led the Sustainable Sites Initiative™ Pilot Process.

The new center significantly reduces the distance visitors must travel into the for orientation to opportunities within the park and the surrounding area. It demonstrates a high level of building and site sustainability as demonstrated through the LEED® Platinum and Sustainable Sites Initiative™ Two‐Star ratings. It approaches net‐zero energy use, with over 95% of its required electricity needs achieved through renewable energy sources, including solar panels, solar hot water, ground source heat pumps and a micro‐hydro turbine.

The design supports the 24 Native American tribes affiliated with the park by incorporating Native American symbolism and interpretive information. It expands the existing body of knowledge on plant salvage and transplantation through efforts to salvage and transplant over

40 native Indian Apple plants on the site, and was part of a National Park Service (NPS) pilot project to develop revegetation monitoring standards for future projects throughout the park system. Perhaps most importantly, the project is an example of a successful construction

project where the buildings and the natural environment coexist on equal footing, each providing mutual benefits and supporting features.


Utah Chapter American Society of Landscape Architects
Award of Honor 2014

LEED Platinum Certification Two-Star SITES™ Certification

See Project Categories:
National Park Service
Civic & Cultural

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