News

Gulf State Park Interpretive Center and Second Pedestrian Bridge

June 17, 2018

The Interpretive Center at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores is now open, along with a second pedestrian bridge. The two bridges are at either end of the park’s two-mile beachfront. The center’s interactive exhibits about the natural history of coastal Alabama and its ecology will be completed this summer.

The new center and bridge are part of the Gulf State Park Enhancement Project, which provides ecologically sensitive enhancement to the 6,150-acre park – a stretch of coastline that runs from Gulf Shores to Orange Beach operated by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Partner in Charge Jay Pigford of ArchitectureWorks, the Birmingham firm that designed the Interpretive Center, says the center serves as a launching point for visitors to the park, and as such is designed as a way-point along a 28-mile trail system and not a final destination.

“We designed the project as two wood structures connected by expansive, terraced decks that rest lightly on the land with deep overhangs, encouraging visitors to experience the interactive exhibits through the buildings,” Pigford explains.

“A wood-screened exhibit porch offers long views of the dune restoration project ongoing along the two miles of park beach-frontage. Orientation of the building and its simplicity of roof form are integral pieces toward its net-zero impact through solar and water collection, aiming to achieve Living Building certification – one of 16 structures in the world.”

Living Building Challenge certification has been the most challenging part of the project as it restricts certain material use based on composition and manufacturing processes, Pigford adds.

“LEED has brought the construction industry a long way, but Living Building design considers the ingredients of the building as well as how it performs after it is built,” he continues. “It is not only an educational tool for the park but also for building resiliently along the Gulf Coast. The building is sited to encourage dune regeneration as well as encourage visitors to explore the entire 6,000 acres of the park across a pedestrian bridge designed as part of the project.”

Matt Leavell, a member of the Gulf State Project Development Team at the University of Alabama, calls the Living Building certification “the most rigorous environmental certification in the world right now.”

When the Interpretive Center becomes a Living Building, Leavell says, it will be the first in the Southeast region of the United States.

 

Image 1: The Gulf State Park Interpretive Center is a launching point for visitors to the park and was designed as a way-point along a 28-mile trail system. A wood-screened exhibit porch offers long views of the dune restoration project along the two miles of Park beach-frontage.

Image 2: The second pedestrian bridge is now open. Two pedestrian bridges are at either end of the park’s two-mile beachfront.

Image 3: The new center is not only an educational tool for the park, but also for building resiliently along the Gulf Coast. The building is sited to encourage dune regeneration as well as encourage visitors to explore the entire 6,000 acres of the park across a pedestrian bridge designed as part of the project.

Image 4: Orientation of the building and its simplicity of roof form are a significant part of its net-zero impact through solar and water collection, with the goal of achieving Living Building certification, of which only 16 structures in the world have received.

 

*Article Written By Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of Art Husbant