THE CULTURAL CONTEXT
The design, construction, or
modification of buildings and
facilities must reflect the
architectural character of the
region. Architectural character
grows from the following factors:
• Landscape setting and physical
• Traditions of indigenous cultures,
including early European settlers
and subsequent development.
• National and regional
European settlers imported their
building traditions. For example,
New England’s early English
settlers imported the use of split
boards for siding (a response to
the shortage of timber in England)
to New England. In the mid-
Atlantic region, German settlers
who favored square-log house
construction in central Europe
(which had large forests to
support this construction)
continued to build with logs
in the new land.
Other settlers adapted to new conditions. In the
Southwest, the Spanish colonists combined their
architectural traditions with the adobe Pueblo
architecture that adapted so well to the desert.
In rainy Florida, the Spaniards developed a
waterproofing material called tabby, made from
a ground-up mix of lime and oyster shells.
Lacking such modern technologies as air
conditioning or earth-moving equipment, earlier
builders learned to work with the constraints of
each site. The results of their labors provide
valuable lessons for sustainability. For example,
they knew how to minimize site disturbance and
how to maximize natural heating and cooling.
The early built environments of the Forest Service
fit squarely within these cultural traditions.
When sited in remote locations, Forest Service
buildings were by necessity made from local
materials using local skills. As a result, log cabins
were erected in the mountains and adobe
structures in the Southwest.
Tested by time and proven to be utilitarian,
traditional designs continue to be suitable and
sustainable models for Forest Service structures.
The best traditional designs:
• Use locally available building materials.
• Respond to the climate.
• Work sensitively within the landscape setting,
taking advantage of solar orientation, shade
trees, prevailing breezes, and topography.
• Reflect the region’s culture. For example:
Elements of New England historical context are reflected in a New England architectural character. (Fig. 9)
Elements of North Pacific historical context are reflected in a North Pacific architectural character. (Fig. 10)
Issues to consider:
• What are the traditional building styles of
the region? Of the forest?
• What materials, colors, and building
techniques were traditionally used?
• Can these be adapted using modern building
techniques and materials?
• Does the design fit within the image, history,
and culture of the Forest Service?
• Where does the site fit into the Recreation