DEATH VALLEY, Calif. — The Furnace Creek Visitor Center in Death Valley National Park was granted the Award of Excellence from Docomomo US. The award is part of the Modernism of America Awards, the first national program of its kind to celebrate the projects and people working to preserve and rehabilitate significant mid-century modern buildings for continued productive use, and to raise public awareness of the ongoing threats to modern architecture and design.
The program seeks to acknowledge the substantial economic and cultural impact such projects had and continue to have on our local communities and to set a standard for how preserving modern architecture can be accomplished. Through the awards program, Docomomo US seeks to bring attention to the many successful local, regional, and national projects, and elevate an appreciation for the value of modern architecture to our cultural and architectural history. Theodore Prudon FIA, president of Docomomo US states, “The quality and variety of the nominated projects submitted for the inaugural year of the Docomomo US Modernism in America Awards is inspiring and speaks to the increasing interest in the cultural value mid-century modern architecture brings to the United States.”
The Furnace Creek Visitor Center captured the Design Award of Excellence for the restoration of the Furnace Creek Visitor Center in Death Valley National Park. In selecting the project, the jury noted the exemplary attention to detail in the preservation and expansion of the site. “Receiving a million visitors annually, Furnace Creek Visitor Center is an outstanding example of the National Park Service’s “Mission 66” program.”
Speaking on behalf of the jury, architect James Polshek continued, “With the recent loss of Richard Neutra’s Cyclorama building at Gettysburg and a number of Mission 66 sites lost or in serious need of restoration, we congratulate the team for recognizing the high architectural and historic value of the complex, committing the funding for its preservation and sensitively restoring, adapting and expanding it for continued productive use. The Furnace Creek project demonstrates the capacity of modern buildings to be productive, adaptable and sustainable well into the future.” Built in 1959 by noted Park Service architect Cecil Doty, the buildings were sensitively expanded in the lobby, restrooms and administrative offices. The additions respect the original architecture, while character defining features were preserved and historically significant landscaping was thoughtfully rehabilitated. New pedestrian paving and shade structures were added for visitor accommodation. LEED Gold certification is pending.
“Death Valley National Park is proud to have the Furnace Creek Visitor Center recognized though this award. A lot of thought and hard work was put in to keep the buildings true to their original design, yet increasing the functionality for modern day users” said Kathy Billings, Park Superintendent.
The Visitor Center was completed and re-opened to the public in November 2012, and holds an array of new exhibits and a new 20 minute park film “Seeing Death Valley”, narrated by Donald Sutherland. Visitor Center hours are everyday 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. For more information see www.nps.gov/deva.
Docomomo US (which stands for the documentation and conservation of buildings, sites, and neighborhoods of the modern movement) was founded in 1995 and is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization. Docomomo US has 15 regional chapters whose members work to exchange knowledge, stimulate interest, educate the public, and advocate for the appropriate protection and preservation of significant modern buildings, sites and neighborhoods and landscapes in the United State. More information on the awards program is available at http://docomomo-us.org/programs/awards