Sustainable and Healthy Space as a Site of Reflection — An Interview with Architect, Paul Murdoch


Q: Is there an aspect of the project where design and sustainability most engage with one another?

The new public park restores land degraded by industrial use and coal mining into a designed memorial landscape. Healing the land sustainably is a metaphor for emotional healing by experiencing this commemorative setting. Therefore, sustainable design strategies take on multiple dimensions; historic, poetic, symbolic, experiential and biological. 

Q: How do sustainable, healthy spaces encourage or complement the site as a space of reflection?

Daylight is used in the visitor center to connect visitors to the natural and commemorative landscape so the story told in the displays always has a direct connection with the site. Archival material in the exhibits required low light levels. Rather than exhibit within a “black box,” eight different glass types, studied through a digital daylight model, respond to the various exposures to enhance building performance while mitigating negative effects on the exhibits. This careful location of building apertures and high performance glazing of various types allows the interior to be visually connected with the memorial landscape and its many moods, promoting personal reflection.
Q: What didn't make it into the final design? Why?

We initially thought that the park would be completely self-sustaining in terms of energy production, water use and waste treatment. The NPS capital budgets were not defined in those terms and life cycle analysis during design did not support the additional up-front costs for various measures. Additionally, operations budgets and staff training required resources that were not available.
Q: The project is very energy efficient—what are the key strategies?

Geothermal heat pumps, radiant ceiling for heating and cooling, a robust thermal envelope, and natural lighting as noted above all contribute to the energy efficiency while enhancing the memorial expression. For example, full height curtain walls visually unite the interior and exterior. Skylights along each side provide diffused natural light grazing each of the textured concrete memorial walls. Ceramic frit in a hemlock pattern on glass at the entrance end filters southwestern light and screens visitor activity. A view window facing the field and crash site uses reflective tinted glass to provide an open panorama of the memorial landscape while reducing solar gain and glare at the interior. So each measure improves performance while helping to commemorate.