• Revisiting Mission 66: The Legacy of Modernism in America's National Parks
    Anna Knoell

Mission 66 Zion Park Visitor Center, 2012, Springdale, UT. Photo: Anna Knoell.

In 1956 the National Park Service initiated Mission 66, an architectural program intended to counter overuse of the parks by an increasingly mobile postwar population. Visitor centers designed in a modernist mode were built at parks across the country in order to intercept and educate park visitors, crafting the terms of the public's engagement with nature. Unlike natural landscapes, which renew themselves continuously, these architectural sites mark an approach to the natural environment that is fixed in a particular moment in time. As they have aged, these sites have been evaluated very differently in terms of their historic significance and practical usefulness—some have been preserved, some destroyed, while others await judgment. This research evaluates the legacy of modernism in the parks, in both its functional and its cultural capacity, while also attending to the architecture slowly replacing it. Inherent to this research is the question of architecture's cultural function and currency in the context of nature.

Anna Knoell is a designer based in New York. She received her MArch from Princeton University in 2013. Previously, she studied art and modern culture and media at Brown University and worked as a graphic designer at the Whitney Museum of American Art. She is a former editor of Pidgin magazine. She is currently a researcher and designer for Structures of Coastal Resilience, an initiative funded by the Rockefeller Foundation to develop new tools for the assessment of probabilistic coastal storm surge and to prepare a series of landscape, planning, and design strategies for sites along the North Atlantic coast. Her prior research on the legacy of modernism in the United States National Park Service was supported by the Butler Traveling Fellowship at Princeton University.