Final Presentation (Julie Martin)

The purpose of the redesign of Fort Ancient was to create a new and slower experience of the site in order to encourage the visitors to gain a greater understanding of and appreciation for the history of the Hopewell people, the magnitude of their accomplishments, and their natural environment. The main design question therefore became: how can a new and modern master plan and structure not overshadow the historic and natural site, but enhance it? The concepts of the natural world and the built environment were analyzed, compared, and then connected theoretically. These ideas were derived until three concrete forms that encompassed all of the ideas—the building, the path, and the folly—emerged.
The building and sites along the paths are spread out around the site in order to create a broad experience. The proverbial oscillation between the main built form and the natural environment became manifested in the literal wave-like pattern of the path. The visitors leave Route 350 and drive along the winding road adjacent to the river, becoming immersed in the wooded scenery. They reach the building where, on a linear path, they are directed through a museum and research facilities in order to first be introduced to the meaning and history of the site. Here, in the concentration of program and activities, is the oscillation heightened. The path to the entrance weaves in the x direction and also climbs in the y direction. The parceled pieces of the form continue this path and the constant earth sheltering- cantilevering- earth sheltering action completes the undulation in the z direction. When the visitors emerge at the top of the hill, they are presented with a wide-open meadow and the beginnings of paths to the follies.
Again, the path weaves throughout the site, following the topography and literally slowing the experience by decidedly not taking the most efficient path. The trails outline many of the mounds and stop at follies along the way. Inspired by the English gardens, the follies are representative of history. At Fort Ancient, they are reenacted Indian villages as interactive teaching tools for families; a sacred monument to the only burial mound on the site; a shelter around the current archaeological dig. Whereas the main building houses a museum where the facts are fed to the people, the follies are meant to be more experiential and personal. Each person comes away with a different but greater understanding of the site, its importance, and its connection to people today.
Although it is not completely known how exactly the Hopewell Indians used the site or the mounds, it is certain that the site was a social environment for the ancient people. As of now, the site does not draw many regular visitors, has an uninspiring building, and an inadequate amount of paths or interesting sites along the paths. It is the hope that this design would not only teach the public about their ancient ancestors but also bring visitors regularly to the park and restore the social nature of Fort Ancient.

Schematic Design–%20Fort%20Ancient

Mary Miss’ Greenwood Pond

In collaboration with the Des Moines Art Center, the local community, and the Museum’s park nearby, Mary Miss created an experience that linked the past and present of the area as well as added new meaning. This site is a meaningful place for the community, and the architect celebrated this fact by creating pathways that the residents could stroll down, enjoy the landscape, and reminisce about past happenings here. However, these pathways are not just sweeping lines meant only to be picturesque—the paths dip into the water, allow new vantage points, and ultimately add new layers of understanding to the site so familiar to the people. The viewers are able to gain a new understanding of the landscape and the importance of the wetlands to the community by seeing new views of the lake and its connection to the rest of the nature. One particular area of interest is the part of the pathway that leads into the water and provides the visitor with an eye-level vantage point with the lake: One can feel the weight of the water being held back by the concrete separating the viewer and the mass of water. Finally, at the midpoint of the path is the pavilion, which provides a place for the people to stop and admire the scene as a whole as well as feel the connection between the water and the land.

Similar approaches of design to this project could be used on the Fort Ancient site: In terms of site intervention, the idea of dipping the pathway almost completely into the water speaks to the archeological digs currently going on. In order to better understand the wetlands, people had to be almost submersed in the water; similarly, in order to better understand the ancient Indians, one must first dig up and “destroy” a little bit of the site to ultimately learn more. I also think it is particularly interesting the way the architect started the experience with the familiar park stroll the people of the community knew so well, but soon warped the experience to layer on new meanings to the area. People not only experienced the elements in different ways, but understood the meaning and importance of the wetlands better. The Fort Ancient museum/lodge design could be used to help the public learn the layers of meanings behind the mounds and Indian culture and thereby promote the archaeological studies of the artifacts.

More info here:

Fort Ancient Site Analysis