The image of a facility depends largely on

how well it fits within its context. This guide

addresses three contexts—ecological, cultural,

and economic—which can overlap and take

many forms.


For example, a flat-roofed, heavy-walled,

adobe-like structure would look inappropriate

in the context of the Cascade Mountains of

Washington. It would not match the landscape

character of its natural surroundings or the

building traditions of the Northwest culture.

Nor would it function properly—ultimately an

economic issue related to maintenance problems

and high heating costs.

Flat roofs do not shed water or snow sufficiently

for the conditions in the Northwest.

Heavy walls with recessed windows create a very

 dark and cool interior, not desirable in that area.

In the Northwest, with plentiful timber resources,

igneous rock, and different climactic patterns,

buildings have taken a much different form since

the earliest cultures began modifying their

environments to respond to their context.


The adobe building fits into the Southwest for

a number of reasons. In the Southwest region,

the main building material (soil) was the most

plentiful one. It worked well for the climate.

It was an inexpensive material as long as labor

was plentiful. Therefore, it was used extensively

and came to be associated with cultural groups

of the Southwest.


The proper fit of Forest Service facilities into

their natural, cultural, and economic contexts

requires careful consideration of many aspects of

design, including scale, proportion, and selection

of building materials. The cultural context of

community is also crucial. The size, style, and

materials chosen for a regional office in a large

city would be much different than those for a

ranger station in a small town. Less obvious is

how the small-town ranger station should reflect

the character of the town around it. It should

not be pretentious, but fit comfortably in the

community, while still presenting the image of a

quality natural resource agency. Integration into

the local context conveys messages about what

the agency represents.


In summary, the built environment must go

beyond superficial images. It must integrate

the principles of sustainability regarding siting,

energy efficiency, building materials, and even

long-term considerations for decommissioning.

Such integration of function, aesthetics,

economics, and sustainability will result in

facilities that truly fit their environments and,

therefore, are beautiful, inside and out.




Chapter 1 Table of Contents

Reader’s Guide