AIA New York State, in partnership with the New York State contracting agencies, has created the Excelsior Awards to provide a model of excellence for state-funded building design, professional practice, and advocacy. The projects are a reflection of the collaborative efficacy of the design and construction team. This year, Saratoga Associates is proud to announce that Grafton Lakes Welcome Center has been selected as a winner.
Grafton Lakes State Park occupies nearly 2,500 acres of the forested plateau between the Hudson and Taconic Valleys in the Capital Region of New York. Its six ponds and 25 miles of trails attract nature enthusiasts year-round, and a variety of outdoor education programs seek to promote interest in the environment. To expand park offerings, the NY State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation appropriated funding for a Welcome Center that would address under-served visitor needs and expand environmental education programs.
The Welcome Center provides educational services, exhibition spaces, information, offices, and public restrooms. The Center employs a variety of important sustainable systems including geothermal and radiant heating, solar panels, and stormwater-managing rain gardens. An educational display was designed with the intention to teach students about these and other sustainable infrastructure systems.
The Welcome Center responds to the site in its design vocabulary, incorporating local rock outcroppings and gently floating a boardwalk over the adjacent wetlands; providing a subtle transition from focused education within the Center to broader awareness and appreciation for the surrounding environment.