When the Boy Scouts of America decided to build a five-story treehouse at its new 10,000+ acre high-adventure camp in West Virginia, the goal was to create a living model reaffirming its conservation heritage and to inspire scouts to be good stewards of the environment.
The Sustainability Treehouse opened at the new Summit Bechtel Reserve in Summer 2013 just as the Boy Scouts introduced a new sustainability merit badge. Designed by Mithun Architects to Living Building Challenge standards, the treehouse sits atop a former strip-mining site. It was intended to tell the story of sustainability in a way that is authentic to the Scouts and to West Virginia.
The challenge for Volume Inc., charged with creating a sustainability exhibit for the treehouse, was to engage young scouts and compete with other camp features including a zip line, a skate park, and climbing areas. In short, it had to make sustainability cool.
The design avoids outdated and formulaic exhibit solutions and, instead, delivers information in surprising and unexpected ways—on stairs leading to the treehouse, on irreverent text murals, in a “rain chain” of camping cups used to illustrate systems thinking and interconnectivity, and on a “Spin-O-Pledge” wheel that encourages scouts to make commitments to the environment. Nature's natural processes inform the exhibit program, which then translates these principles to everyday life.
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“Made me want to be a Boy Scout again: Always be prepared…. and conscious of the environment. The seamless integration of materials, nature, and graphic design captures the culture of scouting while initiating a creative model of education.”
Adam Brodsley (exhibit design/principal); Eric Heiman (creative director/principal); Brett Terpeluk (exhibit design joint venture/Studio Terpeluk); Bryan Bindloss, Brice McGowan, Daniel Surgeon (designers); Ragina Johnson (production); Brian McMullen, Michael Rigsby (copywriters); Natasha Fraley (content developer); Erin Kemp, Hanna Thomson (project management)
Mithun (architecture), BNIM (architect of record/executive architect), Red Gate Film (main theater film)
Pacific Studio (primary fabricator)