Grand Teton Craig Thomas Discovery + Visitor Center

client: national park service

size: 12 acres total, 5.4 acres of planting area

location: moose, wyoming

duration: 2001–2007

construction cost: $13,200,000

awards: 2016 honor award american society of landscape architects, 2010 green good design, 2009 honor award aia seattle

The Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center offers a primal experience of nature in the pristine, iconic Grand Teton National Park. A visceral sensory immersion in the landscape captivates visitors with the wonder of the Teton wilderness through the strategic siting and design of the landscape and building.

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Located near the park’s southern entry, the site is poised between two powerful forces: the Snake River and the Teton Mountains. Missions of conservation, preservation, and stewardship shaped the vision: “We will not domesticate this experience.”

The design formalizes the arrival sequence, embedding the visitor in a compelling landscape. The building is tucked into the forest edge, offering refuge with expansive views across a sage meadow to moraines and the Teton Range. Trails slip along the meadow into the forest edge, hiding and revealing views and creating a heightened sense of place. Intentionally quiet improvements bring untamed land into the built environment. The tools of scent, moisture, movement, sound, and light are amplified; the shade and smell of cottonwoods and spruces in summer and the snap of snow and shadows on windblown drifts in winter are integrated in the design. To preserve the pristine ecosystem, all materials used in the restoration come from the site itself. The project has become a model of landscape regeneration, ecological immersion, and careful human use.

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