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Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site
Elverson, PA

Pratt Institute
School of Art and Design

Team Leader
Jon Otis, MS, Professor in Exhibition Design Intensive and Design Theory

Leading Discipline
Interior Design (Exhibition Design Intensive)

Other Disciplines
Architecture, Graphic Design

9, Graduate Level

Studio Research

View studio documentation.

HOPEwell for All

The Challenge

In their submission for Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, the Pratt team addressed the interconnected challenges of this complex Pennsylvania landscape. As an early American industrial site, Hopewell operated from 1771 to 1883 as an "iron plantation" that laid the foundation for the transformation of the United States into an industrial giant. Now, with 848 acres set within the Hopewell Big Woods—one of two globally significant forests in the northeastern U.S.—the park seeks to tell a broader and better integrated story of Hopewell's transition from natural resource extraction to enlightened conservation.

Studio Approach

Following an exhibition design approach, the Pratt studio affirmed that in an ideal park experience, design is largely invisible and subservient to the resource of the park itself. In this sense, the assignment is seen as an ideal space of discourse to explore the responsibility of the designer in the context of communicating natural, cultural, and social ideas to expand the context of preservation. The design itself is not an object, but simply the vehicle for understanding something larger and more encompassing. Critical to the studio's overall concept is visitor empowerment through a process of self-discovery. The Pratt team believes that national parks must incubate and inspire future generations to innovate and sustain their natural resources. Parks must function as more than assets of preservation, beauty, and history. They require integration into our lives as high-performance landscapes.

Key Features

The park experience covers four zones: Decompress, Intrigue, Explore, and Resolve. Decompress is the point of arrival — architectural and landscape interventions that establish a subliminal connection to the characteristics and features seen throughout the park. Intrigue is a series of portals framing vistas of the park, leading to three trail experiences: Field, Forest, and Town. Explore proposes three themed trails (Ingenuity, History, Landscape), while Resolve is the point of interactivity where visitors can leave a personal expression on a chalkboard surface. The proposed network includes "connection labs" established at intersection points of trails that serve as educational centers and activity nodes.

Jury Comments

This studio had an innovative overall premise, with an ambitious effort to rethink how the park is experienced and how visitors would be facilitated. The project provides a creative way of orienting visitors that could be applied as a model for other National Park Service sites. This is a well-integrated proposal that refreshingly reframes the concepts of preservation, landscape architecture, and exhibition design.