Project DescriptionGWWO was initially commissioned by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association to complete an extensive site and building master planning process for George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, which is considered one of the country’s most significant historic sites. Since the site attracts approximately one million visitors per year, another critical aspect of the planning involved strategies for handling large numbers of people in a gracious and expeditious fashion.
The completed master plan called for a three-phased project that included the Historic Mount Vernon Inn renovations and additions, a new 30,000-SF Orientation Center, and a new 41,000-SF Museum and Education Center.
GWWO began with a $12.3M major expansion to the visitor orientation and food and gift facilities; which was completed in Phase I. This project involved designs for additions and renovations to the existing National Register-listed Mount Vernon Inn, which was originally constructed by the National Park Service circa 1932. The new complex includes a 200-seat lecture hall, a large gift shop, extensive dining facilities, and a new formal indoor/outdoor terrace room overlooking a sunken garden courtyard.
GWWO most recently completed phases II and III of the master plan, which included the $34M design and construction of the new Ford Orientation Center and new Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center. The new 30,000-SF Orientation Center serves to welcome visitors to the historic estate, and includes ticketing, information services, a small retail operation, visitor comfort facilities and two theatres with total seating for 400.
A second new 41,000-SF facility houses the new Museum and Education Center. The Museum showcases objects and artifacts relating to the life and times of George Washington in 6,000-SF of exhibit space, including a 1000-SF changing exhibit area. The engaging and interactive Education Center features multi-media and interactive exhibit galleries, multiple theater experiences, classrooms and distance learning facilities focused on providing innovative learning opportunities for school children, families and researchers. In a separate section, more traditional museum galleries showcase objects relating to the life and times of George Washington.
All of the new facilities were designed with utmost sensitivity to the site’s historic pastoral setting. In order to minimize impact on the landscape and to maintain sight lines and views from the estate, a portion of the new buildings was constructed underground. The new facilities blend seamlessly with the natural setting. Despite the significant addition of visitor service facilities, visitors are able to experience the site much as Washington did over two hundred years ago.
The Ford Orientation Center and Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center have been recognized with numerous awards for design and construction excellence; most recently, the Ford Orientation Center was selected as the 2008 AIA Baltimore Grand Design Award winner. The projects have also been featured widely throughout the press.