Q & A

In October 2011, competition participants had an opportunity to speak directly with staff at their chosen park site during conference calls to ask questions and discuss park needs and priorities. Links to call transcripts, as well as questions and answers addressing each park's specific issues, are posted below.

Below the transcript links is a Q&A section for general competition inquiries.

Biscayne National Park Transcript and Q&A
Nicodemus National Historic Site Transcript and Q&A
Valles Caldera National Preserve Transcript and Q&A
San Juan Island National Historical Park Transcript and Q&A
Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area Transcript and Q&A
Civil War Defenses of Washington Transcript and Q&A
Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site Transcript and Q&A

Questions regarding Stage 1 submissions were accepted until October 31, 2011. Answers have been posted below.

  • Is it necessary to register for the competition?
    No registration is necessary. You are free to submit Stage 1 competition materials by the November 1 deadline.
  • How can I stay up to date on competition announcements?
    Please send us a note at dtpstudio@vanalen.org to ensure that you are on our competition mailing list. And follow our Twitter feed @Parks4thePeople!
  • May we contact our chosen park to ask questions and arrange a site visit?

    To ensure that all participants have equal access to information about their chosen park, we will be arranging conference calls with park leadership at each site. At that time, you will have an opportunity to speak directly with your park's staff to discuss the competition. We will post the conference call schedule on this page, as well as on our Twitter feed and via email, so check back for more details.

    Teams are welcome and encouraged to visit their chosen site at any time, but during Stage 1 of the competition, they will not have an opportunity to meet privately with park staff. Of course, teams may explore the park, as would any member of the public, by speaking with park rangers, participating in tours and programs, and so on.

  • Will site data about the parks, such as base maps, be made available to us?
    Each park has been asked to post data about their site, including available base maps, to the Park Planning section of their website. (Valles Caldera National Preserve has separate Reference Documents and Maps sections where materials may be found.) Parks may continue to post new information as the competition progresses, so do look for updates.
  • How can I find out about my chosen park's planning and design priorities?
    Most parks have posted planning documents on their website, including their General Management Plan, interpretive plans, environmental assessments, historic resource surveys, and other documents. Some sites have also posted their Centennial Initiative 2016 plan, which outlines their vision for the Park Service's second century. Be sure to see the Park Planning section of each website, located under the Park Management menu, and browse the entire park website for podcasts, site photos, budget details, and other resources that can offer insight into a park's needs and priorities.
  • How small can a studio be? Is there a minimum number of students required?
    There is no minimum requirement for the number of students in a studio. However, the competition seeks to introduce the National Park sites and system to as diverse a variety of participants and partners as possible, so design studios are encouraged to reflect this inclusive spirit.
  • May graduate students enter this competition (with faculty support in a studio, of course)?
    Yes, graduate students are welcome to participate! But as with all competition participants, they must enter as part of a faculty-supported design studio team.
  • Can design studios from outside of the United States submit proposals?
    Due to the regional emphasis of the competition, participation is limited to schools within the United States.
  • I want to submit a proposal, but my schedule does not allow me to research my park in a design studio this Fall. Can I still participate?
    Absolutely! A Fall semester design studio is not required. Faculty members are welcome to submit Stage 1 proposals based on their own research into their chosen park. To make the most of the competition, however, we do encourage faculty to explore their park through studios, symposia, or seminars as their schedule permits.
  • Should we limit our proposal to a specific area of our chosen park? And what if our proposed project involves several parks in the region?
    Your proposal is not limited to a specific area of the park. You are welcome to encompass different park areas, the entire park, or even a park's regional context including surrounding park sites, if you wish.
  • Can our proposal be based on projects that have already been suggested for our chosen site?
    Yes, your proposal can be based on currently or previously suggested projects, including projects that parks have identified as part of their existing planning efforts.
  • Where can I find more information about the National Park Service's six draft design principles?
    Visit the Designing the Parks website here for full details on the six draft design principles. Be sure to click on the "learn more" link for additional information about each principle.
  • Of the proposal's six requirements, only two items include a page limit. Do the other items have page limits?
    No. There is only a page limit for the Studio Design Thesis and Studio Syllabus.
  • Can you tell us more about student internship opportunities for the winning teams?
    One student per school will be offered an 8 to 10 week paid student position for the summer of 2012 in the National Park Service. We anticipate available positions to reflect the full range of design, planning, and conservation services offered within the National Park Service. We also expect positions to be located throughout the system and range among wilderness, rural, and urban settings. The selected students may work at their competition park or be offered other opportunities. Possibilities include working with design teams in parks, landscape maintenance crews in parks, design and planning policy teams in our Washington or regional offices, inventory teams that work in multiple parks, or within the NPS's central design and planning office in Denver. We will assist all students in finding appropriate summer accommodations, some of which may be available within national parks.
  • Will funding be available to support the finalist teams and their Stage 2 design studios?
    Each of the seven finalist teams will be eligible for travel grants to support their Spring 2012 design studio. We know that exploring park sites on the ground will be key for studio teams, and will be making funds available to support travel to the parks.
  • Are we expected to present a strong driving concept for the studio in our Stage 1 submission, or just a strong educational framework to structure the studio?
    Ideally, the design studio thesis will present a strong, multidisciplinary educational framework to structure the studio, through which students and faculty may collaboratively develop design concepts for their chosen park in Spring 2012. However, a persuasive proposal will also suggest specific avenues of design and planning exploration for the team's selected site. At this stage, the thesis should strike a balance between a methodology for the design studio and a description of how the studio might approach the park and its particular challenges.
  • Are graphics (i.e. diagrams, photographs, etc.) acceptable to help communicate our design thesis, timeline, and syllabus?
    Yes, graphics are acceptable as part of the submission materials, but they are not required.
  • Would a potential design-build option be available for a winning entry?
    At this time, the National Park Service has no plans to implement winning competition proposals for specific park sites. However, these studio projects will be carefully studied by Park Service leadership and individual park staff as exemplary design solutions whose principles embody design excellence at both site and system levels. The winning studio projects may thus play an important role in shaping each park's design and planning strategies, and could potentially be integrated into a park's future planning efforts.
  • Is there a specified page size for submissions?
    Proposals should be submitted on letter-size, 8.5 x 11-inch pages.
  • Do faculty members need to serve as team leaders/coordinators?
    No. While at least one faculty member is required to be a part of each submitting team, students may serve as team leaders. Of course, faculty members are welcome to serve as team leaders if they wish.