After a ten-month competition in which four teams proposed schemes in Northeastern national parks: Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park (Paterson, NJ); Sagamore Hill (Oyster Bay, NY); Steamtown National Historic Site (Scranton, PA); and Weir Farm (Wilton, CT), the Van Alen Institute has finally announced the winner.
Each submission, as outlined by the competition, had to focus on attracting new audiences and engaging younger generations with natural landscapes and historical contexts. With funding from the National Parks Service, the teams were able to realize their ideas.
The victors, “Team Paterson” who submitted their proposal for Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, presented a plan that connected immigrant communities and their restaurants to Great Falls. The project, called “Great Falls, Great Food, Great Stories,” used food as a vehicle to bridge the history and environment of Great Falls with modern day life in Paterson. The project finishes with a tour from park staff, eventually leaving the park and entering local restaurants for a communal meal.
Such was the success of the competition that the Van Alen Institute was able to draw “Six Great Ideas for Connecting Parks to New Audiences” using each project. The institute claims that “these ideas can be used by NPS for similar sites across the country as well as municipalities, advocates, and others who are invested in the future of parks, historic sites, managed landscapes, and many other types of landscapes.”
“We’re thrilled with the wide range of proposals for visitor experience strategies that the four teams developed,” said Shaun Eyring, Northeast Region Chief of Cultural Resources, National Park Service. “This competition has helped the National Park Service assemble a toolkit of design and programming solutions that can highlight the rich resources all of our parks have to offer in a way that attracts a much broader, more varied audience.”
“Van Alen Institute competitions explore unconventional ways that people can engage with their environments,” said David van der Leer, executive director of Van Alen Institute. “National Parks Now pushed both designers and park staff to break from their traditional understanding of parks and reimagine what types of experiences a park could provide for the visitor of the future.”