Bold Adaptation in the Cause of Preservation: A Reuse Strategy for the Mission 66 Visitor Center at Far View
Architectural History and Criticism
Historic Preservation and Conservation
Mission 66, a program that was intended to modernize, expand, and reinvent National Park System from 1956-1966, was the largest improvement initiative by the National Park Service and one of the most ambitious federal projects of the twentieth-century. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Park System, the decade-long program saw the expenditure of around $1 billion for the acquisition of land, the hiring and training of new staff, and the construction of thousands of miles of roads and trails. While these projects helped to transform the image of the Park Service and announce their entry into the modern age, the most visible and well-publicized project completed during this project was the construction of nearly one hundred visitors centers whose designs rejected the “National Park Service Rustic” style of the 1920s and 1930s in favor of the prevailing modernist aesthetic of the post-war era. By transforming the Park Service’s approach to the planning and design of the built environment in America’s parks, the Mission 66 visitor centers are considered to be one of the National Park Service’s most significant contribution to the architectural landscape in America. Nearly 50 years later, the demolition of some of the greatest examples of Mission 66 architecture has brought renewed interest to the visitor centers and their influence on park development in the post-WWII era. Though many advocates have stepped forward to fight for their preservation, the Mission 66 visitor centers continue to be threatened by shifting views of development philosophy, visitor expectation, and aesthetic taste within the Park System. This thesis investigates the challenges facing the preservation and adaptive reuse of these structures through the development of a reuse strategy for the Far View Visitor Center at Mesa Verde National Park. Through a close examination of the history of the Mission 66 program, the challenges presented by existing management policies and guidelines, and the potential to create a bold insertion that symbolizes the next era of park planning and development, the project takes a critical approach adaptation within the National Park System.