Fort Ancient Museum and Lodge

Fort Ancient is a state memorial park, home of the native Adena and Hopewell people hundreds of years ago. The site is a flattened surface, surrounded on the edges by man-made mounds. The exact purpose and meaning of the mounds is unknown, but over the centuries they were built up in layers, and provide a long, thin boundary to the site.

The museum and lodge are located at the southern tip of the site, on the flat land inside the mounds. The building acts as a gateway that opens up to an enclosed area to the south. It allows visitors to enter Fort Ancient from the north and travel southward along a central axis that leads to the center of the museum and lodge. The path leads to the center of the building, which has an opening directly to the other side of the grounds, with entrances into the building on the left and right. Upon approach, the building is semi shrouded by trees and built up earth that gently slopes upward and hides the first floor. This creates a powerful experience for visitors as they travel along the axis and are slowly exposed to the museum and lodge. As hidden as the building is upon approach, it opens up to cleared land on the south side. The open area allows for many incredible views down the hills to the Little Miami River and the land beyond. The building skin itself also reflects this idea of opening up. The wall on the north side is covered in short, thin vertical glass openings that allow ample daylight in to illuminate the interior spaces, but create a sense of opacity when viewed from the exterior. On the other hand, the south walls have a similar pattern of vertical glass openings, but they are significantly wider and taller, allowing guests to look out and take full advantage of the views of the site.

The building is three long, stretched out forms stacked on top of each other that span the distance between the boundaries created by the mounds. The stacking of horizontal forms produces a visual of layers, which is reminiscent of how the ancient mounds were built up in layers over time by the native people.

The site is covered in trees and foliage on the north side of the building and on the hill slopes outside of the mounds. Inside the mounds however, the land is clear, with landscape elements that form an interesting spatial experience. The mounds, normally ranging in height from 15’ to 20’ make a boundary, along with the building, that encloses a small portion of the overall site for visitors to travel throughout. This enclosed site is filled with new man-made mounds that reflect the curve of the building and follow a radiating pattern that moves outward from the building. These new mounds are sloped upward and covered in grass, with a vertical wood retaining wall. The radiating pattern of the new mounds is broken by straight paths that lead from the entrance of the building to four observation decks located at the openings between the original, old mounds. These decks have nice views down to the river and the hills in the distance. The paths breaking up the mounds and the space between them produce interesting pathways for visitors to move about the site and interact with the mounds. The mounds also create a nice visual for guests inside the building to look out upon.

Overall, the building creates a powerful experience as one travels south through the site, to find a long, low building hidden in the earth and trees. The building then opens up to an interesting cleared space filled with new mounds and enclosed by the ancient mounds, with great views from all angles.

Design Development

Schematic Design_James Carroll

Shared space link:

Case Study_James Carroll

The California Academy of Sciences, designed by Renzo Piano, is located in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California. Piano’s main idea was to not disturb the almost “sacred” site, but merely lift up a portion of the park and slide a museum underneath. He accomplished this by creating a rectangular shape and simply extruding it upward from the ground. The roof has 2.5 acres of planted area, covered with approximately 1.7 million native California species that do not require artificial irrigation. The roof also has two main hills that allow for larger spaces below in the interior, and create many opportunities for natural lighting. These hills also mimic the landscape of San Francisco, which is anything but flat. Piano successfully blends the museum with the site with the roof; when viewed from above, one cannot tell that a building is there, but rather only sees the two hills. The building is very sustainable as well, hoping for LEED Platinum.

I believe that we can use this as a precedent for the Fort Ancient site by designing the museum and lodge as an extrusion of the site, and making it as natural as possible. The design could possibly be an extrusion that mimics the ancient mounds of the site, and using natural materials and local vegetation, it would blend in very nicely with the site and represent the ideals of the Native Americans.

Fort Ancient Site Diagrams