When you enter Table Rock State Park through the historic east gate, you wind along the mountain laurel lined road built by the Civilian Conservation Corps up to Table Rock Lodge. The view of the mountain is spectacular, and as your eyes focus on the iconic granite mountain’s face you suddenly recognize that the building in front of you complements the scene rather than competing with it. The Lodge, in fact, harmonizes with its surroundings. The building was built in the 1930s and is timeless. The Table Rock Lodge is perhaps our best example of “parkitecture.”
Parkitecture is officially described as a style of architecture developed in the early and middle 20th century in the United States National Park Service through its efforts to create buildings that harmonized with the natural environment. Since its founding, the National Park Service sought to design and build facilities without visually interrupting the natural surroundings. The result? Parkitecture. Architects, landscape architects and engineers utilized local materials and local character to create visually appealing structures that seemed to fit naturally with their surroundings. This concept was the foundation of the CCC during the creation of South Carolina’s State Park System, and the parks built by the CCC are still filled with parkitecture today.
Recently we have focused on restoring several of these historic structures to remind this and future generations that parkitecture is timeless and, when done correctly, helps to enhance our appreciation for the special places that define our state. South Carolina’s first state park, Cheraw, has a community building similar to those found at most early parks. Cheraw’s “House on the Hill” is the most recent building to be restored. The feedback from park visitors has been overwhelmingly positive and everyone has complemented its classic look.
Parkitecture is not limited to just buildings. The classic spillway at Barnwell, the signs at Sesquicentennial and the historic landscape at Lake Greenwood all showcase the timeless concepts of parkitecture. Modern examples of parkitecture exist as well, like the park headquarters and visitor center at Jones Gap. Our state is blessed with natural resources that inspire and connect us to our state, so it makes sense to use a style of architecture that would complement the very resources we are trying to showcase. My favorite definition of parkitecture, says it all: “a design style dedicated to celebrating nature by blending structures with their majestic surroundings.”
So add the word parkitecture to your vocabulary, and if someone asks if such a word exists you can say sure it does! Just visit a state park and see for yourself!
See you in the parks!