IMAGE AND CONTEXT
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
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.