Serving a dual purpose as both a welcome center and administration building for the entire park, the facility is designed to attract and educate visitors about tribal history, local attractions and the park in general. The center features a multi-purpose gallery, along with reception, meeting and lobby space, a video/viewing area, bookstore/gift shop, information desk, vacation planning area, outdoor seating area and administrative offices for both National Park Service and Visitor Center staff.
Challenged to create a solution that “communicates both the Chickasaw and National Park history and heritage to the public and creates interest and excitement about the park and surrounding attractions.” Our team responded by creating an architecturally-charismatic split-level design which accommodates the sloping site and adds to the dynamic character of the exterior. Stonework exterior is utilized on the south side, while half of the building steps down, paralleling the ground slopes and creating an opportunity to highlight the building’s massing and roof forms. The overall effect engages patrons and encourages them to follow this procession to the facility’s south entrance.
Many of the selected exterior forms and building materials are inspired by the Chickasaw Cultural Center and other structures in the nearby national recreation area. The stone exterior provides a harmonious look that blends with other Chickasaw Nation buildings, including the nearby iconic Artesian Hotel, and perfectly integrates into the “feel” of the larger park area.
Internally, the center’s lobby features broad windows on the north and south sides, maximizing views through the building and towards the scenic park area. Many of the exterior materials reappear on the inside, continuing the outdoor-like sense and theme, while additional finishes make the interior spaces warm and inviting. The facility’s design has been designed to meet the requirements of a LEED Gold certification, through incorporation of numerous sustainable design features including rainwater harvesting, the use of regional, rapidly-renewable and low-emitting materials, and design of high-efficiency mechanical systems, plus low-maintenance landscaping and access to alternative transportation.
The Chickasaw Visitor Center is a gateway and destination point — a place to see and discover and a place where memories are made. It serves as a point of beginning to an adventure and journey. The synergy of the architecture, landscaping and people utilizing this center creates a place in which citizens can take pride.
(*project completed by Jason Holuby as a part of FSB)