Volume Inc. with Studio Terpeluk
Boy Scouts of America, Trinity Works
While the project risks falling into kitsch or even cliché, it nonetheless manages to be an imaginative and highly inspiring sequence of spaces for just the right age of user, the young Scouts who are its intended audience. The Treehouse also brings a message of sustainability—of personal responsibility, recognition of one’s own environmental limits, and respect for the needs of others, both now and in the future—to an organization that might normally skip that message in favor of the Boy Scouts’ traditional focus on masculine self-determination. That makes this an important yet playful space, and one that’s beautifully designed both architecturally and graphically. – Geoff Manaugh
Outside of my political disdain for the Boy Scouts, I like a ton about this project. Its audience, its location, and its mission very rarely see good design. After all, it’s much easier to make a flagship store in Tribeca than a sustainable education center in West Virginia. – Jake Barton
A seamless integration of existing structure and exhibition design, and a thoughtful use of sustainable design in a way that feels fully incorporated—not just an add-on. – Yen Ha & Michi Yanagishita
The Boy Scouts of America / Trinity Works commissioned Volume Inc. to design an exhibition program that tells a sustainability story through an actual "Sustainability Treehouse." Designed by Mithun and BNIM, the Net Zero structure meets the standards of the Living Building Challenge: all its power comes from the sun and the wind, all the necessary water is rain-captured, and all its waste is recycled and reused.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
Situated in the wilds of West Virginia, the Summit is an adventure center for the millions of youth and adults involved in the Boy Scouts of America. It is set on former strip mining land that was converted into a nature preserve and will permanently host the BSA’s Jamboree gatherings, which are held every four years and bring over 30,000 scouts to the site. The main challenge was to create an experience that would engage Boy Scouts eager to find the next adventure activity—zip lines, climbing areas, a skate park—and leave them with a new perspective on sustainability.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
As with the Sustainability Treehouse’s design and construction, nature’s natural processes inform the exhibit program—which we then extended further in the exhibition program by translating these principles to the everyday living in one’s own house. Tactile, low-tech interaction encourages collaboration, motivating visitors to incorporate these Net Zero practices into their own lives and communities for the betterment of the planet. The design avoids outdated and formulaic exhibit solutions and, instead, delivers information in surprising and unexpected ways, down to the humorous and slightly irreverent tone of the exhibit text.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
Volume, Studio Terpeluk (our architecture consultant on the project), and exhibition content development experts worked collaboratively with the client to isolate the main narrative and communication goals, through both traditional and ethnographic research. Based on the results of this process, Volume, Studio Terpeluk and the content experts then translated these concepts into concrete design, which leaned more towards the tactile and analog due to the Treehouse’s remote location and the nature-oriented mission of the Boy Scouts.
Our builder, Pacific Studios, then helped us execute the exhibition program as sustainably as was possible, while our writers (including one of the editors at McSweeney’s) crafted prose that was more lively and engaging than the usual science exhibition fare. Lastly, we worked with RedGate Studios to create an original film that loops across three monitors in the theater area of the Treehouse.
Using design as a tool to spark interest in creating a more sustainable world is no easy task, especially when it's competing with numerous other (and much more immediately engaging) distractions. This program shows scouts (and often their parents) how engaging, fun and impactful sustainability through can really be, in a voice and manner that they can connect with. Surveys taken from over 1200 scouts after the visited the Treehouse scored well into the high 4’s (on a scale of 5) on all fronts.