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Parkitecture 101: National Park Design Style

Whether you call it National Park Service Rustic or Parkitecture, the lodges and facilities in our parks are some of the world’s finest examples of manmade structures existing in harmony with nature.

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Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite National Park

Architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood knew that there was no competing with the splendor of the natural surroundings when he set out to design Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Lodge. Completed in 1927, the foreboding structure sits beneath Royal Arch and boasts numerous staggered balconies and spacious windows that provide sweeping views of Half Dome, Glacier Point and Yosemite Falls. The green roofs and rustic stone columns complement the setting rather than distract from it.

Try This at Home: Install larger windows to bring the outside in. 

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Photo: Curtis Martin

See Inside: The Ahwahnee

The Ahwahnee Hotel’s interior design mixes elements of Arts and Crafts with Art Deco, Native American and Middle Eastern influences. Movie buffs may recognize it from “The Shining” and “The Cain Mutiny.” Countless celebrities have visited this legendary example of Parkitecture including John F. Kennedy, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball, Charlie Chaplin, William Shatner and Gertrude Stein.

Try This at Home: Establish an anchor color and accessorize with items that truly make you happy.

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Photo: Jeff Goulden

Hermit’s Rest, Grand Canyon National Park

Before beginning a project, architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter spent many hours in the area studying and sketching Native American ruins. By incorporating native stone and local timber into structures such Hermit’s Rest (1913), Colter created a distinct harmony within the unique environment. The National Park Service was not beyond her influence and consequently erected many buildings with similar designs. You might even say that Mary Colter is the Mother of Parkitecture.

Try This at Home: If you live in an arid climate, don’t grow grass. Use locally sourced rocks, bricks and tiles to landscape your home. 

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Photo: Glenn Van Der Knijff

Lake McDonald Lodge, Glacier National Park

Located in Glacier National Park, the rustic Lake McDonald Lodge is listed as a National Historic Landmark and is a member of Historic Hotels of America. Naturally, very few elements of the hotel’s aesthetic have changed since its doors opened in 1914. Many of the furnishings such as the lobby piano, log frames and several carved hickory chairs are original. Parkitecture purists will note that some of the Roycroft pieces and Stickley rugs are reproductions. Kanai craftsmen originally designed the lanterns for the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada. These are also reproductions.

Try This at Home: If your home has historic relevance, don’t rip it apart. If you must modernize, leave elements of the architect’s original vision. Often, total gut jobs devalue a home. 

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