Visitors to national forests expect to see

natural-appearing landscapes. To fulfill those

expectations, Forest Service facilities should

harmonize with their landscape settings.


Landscape character results from a combination

of ecological and visual factors. Design should

grow from the character of each site: its ecology,

geology, landforms, colors, plant life, microclimate,

and cultural setting. Structures and roads

should not disturb ecological integrity. They

should match visual features of the landscape

such as color, texture, form, and line. For example,

design in the Southeastern United States can

respond to the slender nature of vegetation in

forests by including slender structural elements.

In areas with massive vegetation and geology,

such as the North Pacific, designs can include

massive structural elements such as boulders

and large logs. (The relationship of landscape and

architectural character is shown in table 3.1.)


Table 3.1 Effect of Ecological Context on Architectural Character


Landscape Attribute


Low precipitation (3–18")

Clear bright sky

Hot summer temperatures

Mild, clear winters


Influences choice of:

roof slope

wall material and mass



wall openings


Resulting Architectural Character:

flat roofs

thick walls for insulation and heat retention

bright intense colors

recessed windows & doors

shade overhangs, arbors

solar design commonplace


Landscape Attribute



Open pine, juniper forests

Small-leaved shrubs

Ground cover


Influences choice of:

building materials

structure massing

roof structure


Resulting Architectural Character:

wood used sparingly

wood logs, poles for roof

xeric, sparse landscaping

water conserving


Landscape Attribute

Surface Geology/Rock:





Influences choice of:

building materials

structure massing

wall thickness

wall finishes


Resulting Architectural Character:

thick, adobe block walls

plaster finish walls

sandstone light colors, tans

wall texture of surrounding soil



Each ecological setting should be analyzed to

determine suitable materials, colors, textures,

and forms. Elements to analyze include:

• Vegetation: Type, canopy coverage, patterns.

• Climate: Prevailing winds, precipitation,

temperature, freeze-thaw cycles, seasonal

variations, heating and cooling loads.

• Color: Degree of lightness or darkness;

tones based on local plant life, geology,

soils, water, quality of light, and sky.

• Solar: Orientation, aspect,

intensity, and available days.

• Surface geology and soils: Type, texture,

size, color, scale, construction capacity,

or limitations.

• Hydrology: Runoff, drainage patterns,

subsurface conditions, and aesthetic

qualities of lakes and streams.


Fig 3: Massive vegetation suggests

massive structural elements


Fig 4: Slender vegetation suggests

slender structural elements



Careful consideration of the following questions

will help illustrate how landscape factors influence

architectural character and materials:

• Will the design visually complement the


• Does the design respond to the area’s

ecological influences?

• Does it use colors and shapes found within

the forest?

• Are important views created or blocked?

• Does the design respond to climate?

• Does the design require regrading or clearing

of vegetation?

• Must new utilities be extended to the site?

• Are the building materials locally produced,

recycled, or recyclable?

• Can the structures be made energy efficient?

• Can they take advantage of energy sources

such as solar, wind, or water power?

• Will the project have an adverse effect on

wildlife habitat?

• Will it increase runoff and erosion?


Materials respond to the scale of the setting—

·       Fig 5 -Large mountains, rocks, or trees suggest a larger scale of materials

·       Fig 6 -Grasslands suggests a finer scale of materials


Fig 7 - Climate-responsive building characteristics for

Cold, dry climate: promote solar gain

• Clerestory window

• South-facing window to promote solar gain

• Berm toward the north

• Thermal mass


Fig 8 - Climate-responsive building characteristics for

Hot, humid climate: insulate and ventilate to reduce solar gain

• Ridge venting

• Reflective roofing color and material

• Windows positioned to promote cross-ventilation

• Under floor ventilation




Chapter 3 Table of Contents

Reader’s Guide