Competition asks architects, designers to reimagine the future of national parks

The National Parks Now competition seeks to make parks relevant for a wider audience.

September 16, 2014 |

The United States has 401 national parks, which are visited by over 275 million people every year. As the National Park Service (NPS) approaches its centennial anniversary in 2016, the agency is reevaluating how parks are used and maintained, Arch Daily reports. 

To this end, NPS has joined with the Van Alen Institute and created the National Parks Now competition. This competition fits into the Institute's existing initiative, Elsewhere: Escape and the Urban Landscape, to investigate how built environments create a need for escape. The National Parks Now competition seeks to make parks relevant for a wider audience, especially smaller national parks near urban areas. 

Four parks in the Northeast have been chosen as case studies for the competition:

  • Sagamore Hill National Historic Site (Oyster Bay, NY) – President Theodore Roosevelt’s estate
  • Steamtown National Historic Site (Scranton, PA) – a monument to the steam locomotive
  • Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park (Paterson, NJ) – birthplace of American textile manufacturing
  • Weir Farm National Historic Site (Ridgefield, CT) – summer estate of artist Julien Alden Weir

National Parks Now asks entrants to propose all types of interventions for these parks, including interactive installations, site-specific education and leisure opportunities, outreach and engagement campaigns, and self-led tours. Any ideas to expand the park-going public, especially those that can be used as a model for other parks, are welcome.

The competition is open to architects, designers, historians, communications professionals, and others.

After an initial phase of competition, four teams, one for each park site, will be selected to participate in a six-month, collaborative research and design process, and will receive $15,000.

A winning team will be chosen after this period and a prototype of their work will be implemented at their site in 2015. See more about the competition here. 


Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park. Photo credit: Johniskew, Wikimedia Commons.


Steamtown National Historic Site. Photo credit: Ken Thomas, Wikimedia Commons.


Sagamore Hill National Historic Site. Photo credit: Schwalbe, Wikimedia Commons. 
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