To create a visitor center that introduces patrons to the beauty of Gorges State Park, the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation partnered with Clark Nexsen to design a new facility featuring museum-quality exhibit and gallery spaces, a teaching auditorium, classroom for films and presentations, retail space, and administrative offices. Gorges State Park is located on the Blue Ridge escarpment, rising 2,000 feet in four miles and forming the divide between the Tennessee Valley and Atlantic drainages. Warm, moist air from the south flows over the escarpment and dumps approximately 90 inches of rain annually on the park, making it one of the wettest places in North America. The park showcases numerous waterfalls, flora, fauna, and spectacular views, which are highlighted in the visitors center to encourage further exploration.
The Visitor Center is LEED Gold certified and the building is used as a sustainability teaching tool for visitors. LEED information is identified for visitors throughout the Visitor Center and adjacent grounds. The Visitor Center uses water very efficiently, and rainwater is collected from the building roofs in an underground storage tank to provide water suitable for flushing toilets and to supply the building waterfall feature. The Visitor Center harvests site energy including the use of free resources like daylighting, solar water-heating, and geothermal energy systems. Under the parking lot, 27 wells use the earth as a heat source in the winter and as a heat sink in the summer.
AIA Asheville Merit Award, 2016
AIA Asheville Honor Award – Unbuilt, 2008