For your Sunday afternoon reading pleasure, and in light of my recent musings on the National Park Service and on the fate of heritage sites, may I suggest this article from Architectural Record’s March 2009 issue, “Rolling out the unwelcome mat for visitor centers” by Martin Filler. The author objects to the new visitor center behemoths because they distance the visitor from the place he or she came to visit. Beginning with the new and expensive (that’s an understatement) Capitol Visitor Center in Washington DC, he also looks at centers at other iconic American place. Here’s a little snippet to whet your appetite–but you really should read the whole article:
After valiantly fending off anachronisms for so long, why did Mount Vernon’s venerable Ladies permit the intrusive and distracting additions by GWWO Inc./Architects — the Ford Orientation Center and the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center — that opened there in 2006? Partially submerged beneath a meadow adjacent to the mansion, the new facilities are banked by grass-covered berms intended to render them invisible. The trick fails, and the patriot weeps. Until these dreadful impositions, Mount Vernon survived as our pluperfect 18th-century time machine: historically veracious, high-mindedly noncommercial, and astonishingly unspoiled.