Lake Superior Provincial Park Visitor Centre
The Lake Superior Provincial Park Visitor Centre is a sophisticated wood structure set into a dramatic landscape on the shore of Lake Superior. R&P designed both the building and the exhibits concurrently.
- Ministry of Natural Resources
- Lake Superior Provincial Park Visitor Centre
- 10,765 sq. ft.
- Exhibit Design, Graphic Design, Interpretive Signage Design
- Wawa, ON, CA
- Year Completed
The Lake Superior Provincial Park Visitor Centre required a sustainable and environmentally responsible design that took great care to minimize its impact on this pristine stretch of land on the shore of Lake Superior. R&P worked closely with the client team to meet and deliver their goal of an exhibit design that would directly inform the shape of the building. As architects and exhibit designers, R&P was uniquely qualified. R&P initially established an overall theme and storyline for the building, then created exhibits to support the content and finally, enveloped the exhibits with a carefully conceived built structure. A rural site, the materials and systems needed to be simple and robust. The building also needed to be able to be easily closed down in winter.
- R&P’s experience in both architecture and exhibit design gave them a good understanding of how to design the building and the interpretive elements to complement one another.Bob Elliott, LSPP
The site, on the shores of Lake Superior, is located in one of the most dramatic parks in Ontario. R&P reduced the impact on the site by “floating” the building on piers and providing a series of three carefully located and linked pavilions; each with different character, but utilizing similar natural materials. Visitors enter via a bridge to a grand lobby with columns splaying upwards to a visually floating roof. Projecting passages with floor to ceiling glass bays open the view to the natural forest. As the visitor travels further into the building and discovers its exhibits, the expansive views of the lake dramatically reveal themselves.
The “Power of the Lake” is the underlying theme for the Centre, offering visitors the chance to explore the dynamic relationships between environmental sustainability and natural, cultural, and aboriginal heritage. A highlight of the experience is the exhibit introduction where visitors are immersed in dramatic footage of a raging winter scene, a time of year when the water is most powerful, in contrast to the calm summer waters.
The discovery-type exhibits show how Lake Superior influences the landscapes, plants, animals, and people of its northeast coast. Visitors are introduced to half a dozen actual places in the Park, all with very different natural and human histories. Both innovative and traditional exhibit media engage visitors, and the discovery-based exhibits are positioned to take advantage of the spectacular panorama view of the lake. The parting message instilled in visitors is the idea that at some level, they are also custodians of the park.
- The new visitor center has been a resounding success since it opened.Carol Dersch, Natural Heritage Education Leader at the LSPP
The Concept Design Stage followed an extensive Master Plan and environmental review for the Provincial Park and its sensitive water catchment areas. The concept design established the visitor experiences, pacing, and connections with the site, both visually and physically. The Centre assets were assessed and a media plan was established. Detailed design established the finishes and materiality of the project as well as the artifacts to be used. Since artifacts were limited, many of the exhibits were created from scratch, including modelling of local animals, fishes, and birds to be displayed inside and outside the building. Despite the many required approvals from different levels of government, the building and exhibits were completed on time and on budget.