National parks, museums, and almost any major tourist attraction will require a visitor center of some sorts, a place where entrants can get information, buy tickets and other products. Not only is it a location for visitors to orient themselves with the facilities, and even buy a cup of coffee, it’s also a chance for architecture to set the tone and make an iconic first impression

Apple Park

Even though Apple Park is the functioning headquarters of Apple Inc, the celebrity status of the brand has made their facilities something of a tourist attraction. It comes as no surprise that a technology brand so widely recognized for impressive design would spare no detail when creating its corporate visitor center.

The Apple Park opened to employees in April 2017, with its circular design and extreme scale earning it the nickname “the spaceship”. Sprawling across 175 acres, the site houses more than 12,000 employees in one central four-storey building. 80% of Apple Park is made up of green space with a center courtyard featuring an artificial pond.

The Apple Park visitor center is a stylish hybrid of information center, café, and Apple store. Image source

The Apple Park Visitor Center consists of four main areas: a café, an exhibition space which currently showcases a 3D model of the park with augmented reality, an Apple Store featuring exclusive Apple merchandise not sold anywhere else, and a roof terrace overlooking the campus.

The visitor center is located across the road from the campus proper, complete with underground parking, and cost somewhere in the region of $80 million to construct.

Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre

The Cliffs of Moher are located on the southwestern edge of County Clare in Ireland. Running approximately 14 km along the coast and rising to a height of 214 metres (702 ft) above the Atlantic Ocean, they are among the most visited tourist sites in all of Ireland, with roughly 1.5 million visits a year.

The cliffs offer views of the Aran Islands in Galway Bay, the Maumturks and Twelve Pins mountain ranges to the north in County Galway, and Loop Head to the south. The local authority developed the original visitor centre in the 1990s, creating an opportunity for visitors to experience the cliffs without significant intrusion on the environment.

The centre was built into a hillside approaching the cliffs, and was planned to be environmentally sensitive in its use of renewable energy systems including geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels, and grey water recycling.

The Cliffs of Moher visitor centre was built into the cliffs themselves so as to limit environmental impact. Image source

The new Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre was opened to the public in February 2007, marking the unveiling of a €30 million upgrade on the previous visitor center. The location now features raised viewing platforms along the coastal path to facilitate better viewing, upgrades to walkways and viewing areas, provision of an audio visual theatre, exhibition hall, restaurant, and retails areas. Accessibility was prioritised and wheelchairs are available to borrow to visit the facilities.

Interactive media exhibits cover topics from geology and history, to flora and fauna of the cliffs, with a large multimedia screen displaying a bird’s-eye view from the cliffs and underwater footage from the caves below.

Dewey Short Visitor Center

The Dewey Short Visitor Center is located at the south end of Table Rock Dam and has been called the "crown jewel" of Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri.

Developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Dewey Short Visitor Center opened in April 2012, and includes a state-of-the-art interactive map of the Table Rock Lake, as well as an overlook which allows visitors to view Table Rock Lake with their own eyes plus the dam, and Lake Taneycomo. All from one viewing deck.

The Dewey Short visitor center was developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers and has been called the crown jewel of Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri. Image source

The center features artistic murals, a replica of an Ozarks bluff (complete with local flora and fauna) and exhibitions of Native American artifacts.

The Dewey Short Visitor Center can be accessed by road as well as by boat, as the center has access to a courtesy dock on the visitor center grounds.

The Great Kemeri Bog Visitor Center competition

Kemeri National Park one of the largest national parks in Latvia, and this Great Kemeri Bog Visitor center competition is calling for submissions for an iconic and functional entranceway visitor centre. The entrance point will need to provide several key facilities - such as an information centre, terrace area, and playground, as well as a car park and ticket booth.

It is a chance for architecture enthusiasts to design something iconic, with the potential to become a noted landmark, all within the stunning natural surroundings of the national park. It is therefore vital that the structure be in keeping with its surroundings, while at the same time standing out.


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