Design Award Entries

Pinnacle Mountain State Park Visitor Center

A new visitor center at Pinnacle Mountain State Park weaves through the trees as a structured, undulating canopy, lightly rooted into the sloping site and forming a gateway to not only Pinnacle Mountain, but all Arkansas State Parks.

Project Statement

Of the 52 State Parks that grace the state of Arkansas, Pinnacle Mountain State Park is unique in that it sits adjacent to the capital city of Little Rock, which has grown to border the park. With over 750,000 people living in the metro area, Pinnacle Mountain may be for many their only experience with visiting a State Park; 600,000 people visit this park each year. While the park offers geographic characteristics found in the state from steep cliffs to wetlands, the park’s most prominent feature, and one of the state’s as well, is the mountain itself. Climbing to the summit is a rite of passage for many children with their parents, and its trails are covered with people each day.

While other state parks in the Ozark and Ouachita mountains have a variety of historic lodges and structures from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) period that set their architectural style, Pinnacle Mountain did not have a precedent; its urban connection, and the younger city patrons that canoe, kayak, hike, climb and bike the mountain said it should connect in a different way. State Parks desired a building that fit seamlessly with the mountain, as part of the mountain. For those that have not ventured past this park, this Visitor Center needed to be not only a gateway to Pinnacle, but to all of State Parks.

In studying the site as long time patrons, the most striking feature is a vein of rocks that runs from the peak down the mountain to a clearing that became the perfect location for access to trails, lower park amenities, and highway 300. The design solution creates three rock “outcroppings” of functional spaces spread along the grade at this vein, all under one undulating roof canopy that reacts to the terrain and weaves through the actual tree canopy. Under that roof canopy, two buildings form a gateway for the trail opening to the mountain and the lobby. Reception, gifts, and exhibits all view the mountain through a continuous glass wall enclosure where education occurs inside/out to connect visitors visually, physically, and spiritually to the mountain. The Loblolly Outpost sits free under the canopy, offering visitors an outdoor café setting to celebrate conquering the summit. The roof is lifted to match the mountain’s slope to open the view up, direct water to the downward slope, and limit the view of the roof from above and below the mountain. Glass reflects nature by day but creates a dynamic open pavilion at night for returning hikers. The glulam beams structural bracing pattern at the roof emulates the organic order seen in nature.

The Pinnacle Mountain Visitor Center blends perfectly into the mountain as both gateway and destination with a progressive language that bridges the urban and natural environments.